In a previous blog, we offered advice on how to prepare for open heart surgery. Today, we are going to share with you some tips on what to expect during the recovery phase of this procedure.

Although each patient’s experience is different, below are four common elements of the recovery process that you’ll want to consider:

Pain – After surgery, pain is to be expected given the fact that the chest bone is the slowest to heal. So be aware that you will experience pain when you breathe, cough, sneeze and laugh. Usually after six weeks, this pain subsides. If you’ve undergone bypass surgery, there might even be pain in your legs because of the grafts that were used during the procedure. Light walking and general mobility can help alleviate the pain and discomfort in your legs.

Medication – Once you’ve been discharged from the hospital, your doctor will likely prescribe pain medication to manage discomfort. Take these medications according to your doctor’s instructions.  If the medication isn’t helping to reduce the pain or you’re experiencing negative side effects, contact your doctor to discuss other options.

Exercise ­– Walking is perhaps the best recovery exercise because it promotes full-body circulation. When you’re approved and to begin walking, start slowly and gradually increase your activity levels. If you feel shortness of breath, chest pain, irregular heartbeat or dizziness, stop exercising immediately. Avoid lifting, pulling or pushing anything that’s heavier than 10 pounds for six weeks post-surgery – these types of activity put strain on the sternum as it’s trying to heal.

Diet – A low-fat, low-sodium diet is commonly recommended following open heart surgery. This type of lifestyle can help reduce the risk of a future heart attack. Maintaining a healthy weight is also a key factor in the recovery process. During the post-surgery period, you’ll likely be asked to weigh yourself each day at the same time on the same scale and record the number. If you gain two or more pounds overnight, notify your doctor immediately.

Though everyone’s recovery is different, take note of these key factors of the recovery process. When a person is cleared to go home, the caregiver as well as the patient will be provided with a set of post-surgery care instructions from the hospital, which may overview these as well as other topics.

For an in-depth overview of the recovery phase after open heart surgery, or to learn more about the listed topics, contact your doctor.

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