Cardiac Rehabilitation: What To Expect After Surgery
Having major cardiac surgery is just one part of an overall strategy to save your life and reduce the chance of subsequent cardiac events. Cardiac rehabilitation may start soon after surgery to strengthen your heart and return you to normal activities.
Your rehabilitation team will want to go over your current behaviors and suggest modifications and medical intervention, if needed. If you engage in heavy alcohol use or smoking, it will be critical to change these behaviors. Poorly-managed chronic diseases are also associated with an increased risk of cardiac problems. Sometimes people overlook the natural predisposition to higher cholesterol and the development of plaques in the blood vessels. Regardless of your lifestyle, you may still need to take medications for high cholesterol, especially if you are predisposed to the problem. Your rehabilitation team will likely want you to go on a specific diet. Certain diets are better at addressing cardiac problems than others. For example, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet tend to work better for people with cardiac disease.
Shortly after surgery, it is important for you to get out of bed and walk around, although it can be painful. The sooner you are able to become mobile, the lower your risk of developing blood clots. If you truly cannot move, you will have cuffs placed on your legs that periodically inflate to help the blood circulate from your legs to the rest of your body. Starting an exercise program is extremely intimidating after cardiac surgery, but it is critical to help strengthen your heart and lungs in a safe manner. The main focus will be training your body enough to do activities of daily living (ADLs) and other basic tasks so you can go home with or without supportive care.
The amount of activity that is safe to do will depend on the particular cardiac problem and your physical activity before surgery. Generally, low-impact cardiovascular activities are the best place to start. Walking or pedaling on a stationary bike are good options. Swimming is another excellent exercise, but you will have to wait until your incision has healed before swimming. If you were quite active before surgery, you can have your activities increased more quickly if they are well-tolerated. In addition to activity, your rehab team will want you to engage in activities that reduce stress and help with relaxation. This can include cool-down activities after exercise, yoga, or forms of meditation. Decompressing is also important for cardiac health.
Mental health plays a significant role in post-cardiac rehab. Having major cardiac problems and needing a major surgery is often hard on your mental health. It can lead to depression if you are unable to be as active as you once were and also a considerable amount of anxiety about mortality. Both therapy and mental health medications may be necessary to reach a point where you are not overwhelmed by symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, feelings of anxiety and depression can be counterproductive because they might make you less active.
Cardiac rehab is a critical phase to overcome significant cardiac illnesses and surgery. Being patient with the rehab process will allow you to go back to your normal activity levels before surgery. To learn more, visit a hospital for special surgery rehab near you.