Often, when people undergo heart surgical procedures, they're anxious to return to their usual routines and activities as soon as possible. However, it's crucial to carefully follow a doctor's instructions regarding aftercare. It's also extremely important to know when it's safe to get back to your everyday activities. Here are some basic guidelines for resuming your normal activities after having heart surgery.
Factors Affecting When to Return to Normal Activities
Every heart patient is different. But most people who've had heart surgery can gradually return to their regular hobbies and activities, if they are careful and abide by their doctors' guidelines. There are several factors that can determine when you're able to go back to your usual activities. These include:
- Your general health—Keep in mind how having diabetes, or another type of health problem, can mean your body will probably take longer to heal after a heart procedure. In fact, most diabetics who've had heart surgery require about an entire year to totally recover.
- Whether you need follow-up doctor visits—This is the case when having aorta surgery, which entails two steps.
- Feeling weak or sore—If you still don't feel like your normal self and struggle with soreness and/or weakness, you need to take it slow and not rush into getting back to your regular routine.
- The type of activity—Light housework and other activities requiring a minimal amount of arm movements, such as dusting and folding laundry, can usually be done the first week or two after heart surgery. Just make sure any task you do doesn't place much pressure on your chest.
- On the other hand, heavy housework, gardening, playing contact sports and climbing ladders requires waiting at least six weeks.
- The type of heart surgery—Consider how a major procedure, such as open heart surgery, is more invasive than one that is only minimally invasive. Thus, more severe and intense surgeries can mean taking longer for resuming regular activities.
- The amount and type of pain medications—If you're taking too many painkillers, besides consuming strong pain meds, you can become drowsy, making it risky to do some of your normal activities, such as driving.
What to Avoid During the Healing Stage
For heart surgery to be performed, your surgeon had to open up the bone that lies in the center of your chest, which is known as the sternum. That's why your activities will be restricted and/or limited so that your sternum has enough time to completely heal. It generally takes from six to eight weeks for total healing to occur. Because healing can be delayed when the sternum moves too much, it's critical to abstain from certain activities until you doctors says it's safe to resume them. For example,
- Don't lift anything that's more than ten pounds for six weeks.
- Don't hold your breath when lifting even lightweight items that weigh less than 10 pounds. Furthermore, don't even hold your breath when using the restroom.
- Don't pull or push something requiring an exertion of more than 10 pounds, such as not opening windows, pushing against heavy doors or unscrewing tight jar lids.
- Don't try to close a car door. Instead, have someone do it for you.
- Although you can climb stairs, start out slowly and do not carry any items either up or down a flight of stairs.
Other Considerations and Warnings
- Most people who've had heart surgery have to stay in the hospital for five to seven days.
- Once you do go home, it's normal to be tired for one or two weeks.
- Roughly 80 percent of your healing occurs during the initial six to eight weeks following a heart procedure.
- It can be hard to concentrate or remember recent events after a heart procedure.
- What's more, you may feel cold in a hot room or hot in a cold room, along with experiencing unexplained perspiring. This generally happens because of the heart machine that was used during your surgery as well as from the medications and anesthesia that were administered to you. Fortunately, these issues go away after four to six weeks.
- Take daily showers, using warm water. Just make sure the shower water or bathwater isn't too hot because this can cause dizziness and make you faint as a result of enlarged blood vessels.
- As for returning to work, consult your doctor. Of course, if your job entails a significant amount of physical exertion, you'll need to stay home longer.
- A balanced diet helps in the healing process.
- Slowly increasing your activity level can be beneficial in rebuilding strength.
- Don't hesitate to call your doctor if you notice anything unusual, such as inflammation in the surgical area, a lot of fluid or drainage from your incision, increased tenderness and redness that's larger than ½" away from your incision.
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