How do I stay active before my heart bypass surgery?

Two people walking a dog in the park

I’m waiting for a heart bypass and I’d love some advice on how to get through the waiting period. The doctor also said I should stay active, but nothing too strenuous. What does this mean?

Dr Mike Knapton says:

Waiting for any treatment is a potentially anxious period. However, it’s possible to use that time to improve the outcomes of your surgery.

The surgery inevitably places significant stress and trauma on your body, so the fitter you are before surgery, the quicker you will recover. Staying active is an effective way to maintain and improve fitness. The amount of activity you will be able to do depends on how severe your symptoms are.

If you are too breathless to talk, stop and take a break. Don’t try to ‘walk through’ pain.

Angina will often restrict the amount of exercise you can take. A useful tip is that you should be able to ‘walk and talk’. If you are too breathless to talk, stop and take a break. Don’t try to ‘walk through’ pain. If you have a GTN spray or tablets, carry them with you.

Some hospitals have pre-operative assessment clinics, which ensure you are in the best shape before you have your operation. The assessment should include a pre-operative fitness score – ask your specialist about this.

We also know that smoking results in worse outcomes following surgery, so quitting helps. Ask your GP what support is available.

Mike KnaptonMeet the expert

Dr Mike Knapton is Associate Medical Director (Prevention and Care) at the BHF, overseeing the strategic role in helping patients and the public reduce their risk of heart disease. He was a GP for 30 years and is a director at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.

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