Recovery Guidelines

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After surgery you will want to focus on getting plenty of exercise and rest, eating a heart-healthy diet and carefully following your doctor's instructions for any prescribed or over-the-counter medication.


Exercise

After surgery, your goal will be to have a well-conditioned heart muscle that pumps more effectively. A gradual increase in activity will improve your strength and endurance. Walking is one of the simplest and most effective forms of exercise you can do. More aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming or bicycling, will provide cardiovascular conditioning. Follow your doctor’s advice about the best exercise program for you.

Some activities, especially lifting, will be limited in the beginning to allow adequate time for your breastbone to heal. You will need to avoid contact sports or any activity where your breastbone may be bumped or hit. As you continue to heal, your doctor will remove these restrictions.

Diet

A heart-healthy diet is essential to your recovery. Use fats and oils sparingly, and avoid saturated fats found in foods such as butter, cream, cheese, fatty meats and bakery products. Prepare your food by grilling, microwaving or baking. Choose low-fat foods, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.

Medication

You will need to carefully follow your doctor’s instructions for the anticoagulation medication and other heart medications you may be prescribed. Always consult your doctor before taking an over-the-counter medication or any other medications prescribed by another doctor as they may have negative interactions.

Rest 

As your body heals, it requires a great deal of energy just to repair itself. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and rest whenever you feel tired; however, you should continue to exercise as instructed by your doctor.

Last Reviewed: January 19, 2010 2506