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Heart Surgery Recovery FAQ's

When can I go back to work after my heart attack or heart surgery?

The amount of time you should be off from work is determined on an individual basis by your physician. Dependending on the amount of damage sustained from a heart attack, your general state of health, whether you had heart surgery and what type of work you do.

In general, some patients may return to a desk job in two to three weeks after a heart attack or minimally invasive bypass surgery. With a physically demanding job, four to six weeks is usually the earliest you may return to work.

If you have had standard bypass surgery, it is generally 4 weeks before you can return to a desk job and it may be eight to twelve weeks before you should return to a more physically demanding job. Be sure to consult with your doctor for individualized instructions.

When can I travel again?

Check with your physician before taking long car trip, going to the mountains or to a place that is very hot and humid. If your physician agrees, by the fifth week after hospitalization you may ride to an elevation of 8,000 feet or less.

Airplane travel is usually permitted within one to two months after discharge from the hospital. Remember that you should plan ahead so you don't have to hurry through the airport or carry heavy luggage. It is also important to consider how strenuous and/or stressful the activities will be once you reach your destination. For example, long sightseeing tours, long distance walking, stressful business trips should be discussed with your physician.

When can I resume sex after my heart attack or heart surgery?

It is natural for a couple to be nervous about resuming sexual activity after a heart attack and/or heart surgery. Many people are afraid sexual relations may place too much strain on the heart. However, sex with your usual partner is safe approximately three to four weeks following a heart attack or surgery. It is important to be patient, to communicate openly and to allow both partners to be emotionally and physically ready in order to alleviate any anxiety either may feel.

The following are some guidelines for both heart attack and surgery patients to help you and your partner to return to a normal, healthy sex life.

  • Have sex when you are well rested and not anxious or stressed.
  • Allow at least an hour after eating before sexual activity.
  • Select a position that is relaxing and comfortable. If you have had heart surgery, you may find some positions uncomfortable to your incision. For the first eight weeks you should assume only those positions that do not require putting weight on your arms. If you experience angina, stop sex and treat with Nitroglycerin as directed. Your doctor may recommend using Nitroglycerin before having sex if this is a recurrent problem.
  • As a general rule, the American Heart Association advises that if you are able to comfortably walk up two flights of stairs, it is safe to resume sexual relations. Always check with your doctor if you are unsure.
  • A heart attack does not cause impotence, however, some of the medications you are taking as well as fatigue, anxiety, and depression may interfere with sexual function. If you experience this problem, your physician can help you determine the cause and if necessary, make changes in your medications.

Will bypass surgery fix my heart?

Coronary artery bypass grafts supply the heart muscle with the oxygen and blood supply it needs to function more normally and to relieve chest discomfort. The underlying disease, atherosclerosis, is not cured when this surgery is performed. Numerous research reports show a substantial correlation between positive lifestyle behaviors and the reduced risk of recurrent heart disease. Initiating changes in certain areas of your everyday life will help you develop and maintain a healthy heart.

Is it normal to be depressed after a heart attack or heart surgery?

Yes. Having a heart attack or heart surgery is a frightening experience and one that is frequently accompanied by a variety of emotions for most patients. Some individuals have a tendency to deny that anything is wrong. Others may experience varying degrees of depression, anxiety, anger, and frustration. All of these feelings are common and very natural. Just like your physical recovery, emotional recovery requires time and patience. It is important to identify your feelings, accept them and work through them in order to get back to a healthy and normal lifestyle.

Because each person is different you will need to explore the best methods to help you cope with your specific feelings. The following are a few suggestions:

  • Take an active part in your recovery by learning all you can about your condition. Read and ask questions. Knowing what to expect will help you feel more in control of your own situation.
  • Take things slowly and give yourself time to adjust Don't feel that you must immediately return to your normal routine.
  • When you leave the hospital, don't think you have to lie in bed all day. Get up, shower, get dressed, etc.

Consider joining a cardiac rehabilitation program. In addition to the physical benefits, the group support and encouragement are invaluable.

Encourage your family to join you in learning more about your heart attack and surgery recovery. The more they understand, the better they will be able to help you through the experience.

Find someone to talk to. Sharing your feelings with others can be very helpful. If your emotions become extreme, or do not improve with time, be sure to discuss them with your physician.

How do I progress my activity after a heart attack or bypass surgery?

The best guide for activity the first two months following a heart attack or bypass surgery is to walk at a comfortable pace that does not make you short of breath or feel you are having to exert yourself to keep up the pace. The walk should be easy, slow, and on flat ground. Do what you can do without becoming tired. Rest when you begin to tire. Never overexert yourself during the first 8 weeks of recovery.

Don't walk right after a meal , wait 45 minutes to 1 hour before going for a walk. When the body digests food, much of the blood supply goes to the stomach and intestines to help with digestion. Walking after a meal causes extra strain on the heart.

In winter, walk outdoors in the late morning or early afternoon during the warmest part of the day or walk in a shopping mall, health club, church, or grocery store. In the summer, do your outdoor walking in the morning or evening when it is cool. Try to avoid walking in temperatures less than 40 degrees or more than 80 degrees.

Adventist HealthCare offers several options for home health care. All services are staffed by compassionate professionals who bring top-quality care into patients homes, while providing them with the personal attention that is an unique advantage of home health care.

Put Your Heart in Expert Hands at Adventist HealthCare

Ask your doctor to make a referral to the heart and vascular specialists at Adventist HealthCare or find a doctor online. To speak with a member of our experienced cardiovascular team or schedule an in-person appointment, call 1-800-642-0101.

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If you or a loved one experience chest pain, call 9-1-1 now. That's the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment at an Adventist HealthCare Accredited Chest Pain Center.

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