Getting surgery of any kind can be a daunting experience. And, with so much happening, it can be a confusing and worrying time, so it's good to get educated about what to expect, and how to look after yourself post-surgery.
Bypass surgery is a type of heart surgery, where an alternative route past a blockage or narrowing in your artery or vein is made. This helps improve blood flow and oxygen to the heart. It is sometimes known as CABG.
So, if you've had — or are going to have — bypass surgery, you'll need to know what to do following that surgery. This 10 step guide is just for you:
1. Attend regular health check-ups
Your doctor will want to ensure you make a full recovery, so it's important to attend all check-ups to keep an eye on cholesterol, blood pressure, and simply your health in general.
2. Take medications as prescribed
It's important that you take your medication at the prescribed times and doses, to keep your health in check.
3. Ask for help
In the first few weeks following surgery it's normal to feel a bit confused, so it may be a good idea to get someone to help with your medications, remembering appointments, and housework or cooking, etc.
4. Look after your wound
Before you leave hospital medical staff will probably give advice on caring for your wounds. This may involve keeping the chest and leg incisions clean and dry, and watching for any signs for infection.
Contact your doctor immediately if you experience severe pain in or around the wound, tenderness, swelling, high temperature, or you notice pus coming from the wound.
5. Be aware of side effects
It's good to be aware of some of the side effects, so that you know what to look out for. After discharge you may experience:
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling at the graft site
- Tiredness but difficulty sleeping
- Muscle or back pain
6. Keep an eye for depression
Many bypass patients feel depressed after surgery. If you notice your mood getting low, do talk with a close friend, family member, or your doctor. Remember, this is a perfectly natural way to feel, don't feel embarrassed.
7. Eat healthy foods
If you don't eat a healthy diet already, you need to make some changes in favor of a healthy, whole food diet. Try to cut back on heavily processed foods, and instead opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes, and eat dairy in moderation. Also, get some healthy fats into your diet, by choosing olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and oily fish on a regular basis.
8. Give up smoking
If you smoke, it is incredibly important that you stop for your long-term health. Studies have shown that people who continue to smoke after bypass surgery have a greater risk of death, than patients who stopped smoking. They also needed repeat procedures more frequently.
Ask the practise nurse about smoking-cessation programs in your local area.
9. Lose weight if necessary
Maintaining an ideal weight is important for all round good health, and also to help prevent recurrent problems with your heart. If you need to lose weight, try to do so sensibly — 1 to 2 pounds per week — and make lifestyle changes, rather than quick fix solutions.
10. Be active
You may be afraid to exercise following surgery, but it is important — exercise really is the secret to feeling healthier and more energetic long-term. Pilates, and walking are good options to begin with, because they are gentle. Just check with your doctor for a personal plan.
Please remember, your bypass surgery will improve the blood flow to your heart, but it won't cure your heart disease. Your long-term outcome will partly depend on how healthy your lifestyle becomes — take control, it's not too late!
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian and author of Dietriffic.com. Check out her blog for healthy eating tips, and much more.