Bypass surgery is done to restore blood flow to the heart muscle when coronary arteries become narrowed or blocked by cholesterol-filled plaque. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans undergo this operation.
Five key factors affect recovery, according to Dr. R. Morton Bolman III, the chief of cardiac surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Dr. James Rawn, a cardiac intensivist at the Brigham:
Stay active before surgery. Some level of physical fitness helps counteract the immobility of recovery.
Quit smoking. Not smoking before and after the operation reduces the odds of developing pneumonia or other complication.
Don't diet. When the body is under stress, it tends to break down muscle. Healing requires calories, especially from protein. Long-term changes in diet may be needed later, but a healthful diet helps recovery.
Keep a positive attitude. Some people become depressed after bypass surgery. A positive attitude can influence how quickly you become active again.
Take medications as prescribed. Bypass surgery may restore blood flow to the heart muscle, but the disease that caused the blockage is still there. Taking medications as prescribed helps avoid the need for another bypass surgery down the road.
Read the full-length article: "Recovering from coronary bypass surgery"
Also in the December 2012 Harvard Heart Letter:
- Fixing mitral valves without open-heart surgery
- Stem cell therapy holds promise for repairing damaged hearts.
- Drinking green tea may lower heart disease risk
- Bypass surgery is safer than angioplasty in people with kidney disease
The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling877-649-9457 (toll-free).
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