Heart surgery: Tips for a speedy recovery (Continued)

3. Coping with fatigue

After heart surgery, it is normal to tire easily as the body recovers. “Try to space out your daily activities and include rest periods in between,” says Dr Victor Chao, Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth group.

If you have flexibility at your job, it would be a good idea to ease back into your work schedule. If possible, start back at half-time and gradually increase your work time.

4. Getting enough sleep

Many people complain of having trouble sleeping for some time after heart surgery. Normal sleep patterns should return within a few months, says Dr Chao.

It is important to inform your doctor if lack of sleep leads to changes in behavior or if normal sleep patterns do not return. In most cases, the following tips may help:

  • Stay active and do some exercise during daytime.
  • Avoid napping during the day.

Some patients may require a short course of sleep medication.

5. Managing cognitive decline

You may feel mentally less sharp after heart surgery, especially if the surgery involved stopping the heart and circulating the blood through a heart-lung machine.

In most cases, normal function returns. You will need to be patient with yourself and to avoid mentally stressful tasks during the first few weeks after surgery.

6. Dealing with emotions

It is normal to feel sad, depressed or irritable after heart surgery. These emotional blues should however go away after a few weeks as you gradually get back to your normal routine and activities.

Keep emotions on an even keel by following these tips:

  • Get dressed every day.
  • Take a daily walk.
  • Resume your hobbies and social activities as soon as possible.
  • Share your feelings with others.
  • Get sufficient sleep and rest.
  • Join a cardiac rehabilitation programme or support group.

“Healing is a gradual process. There will be good and bad days – both physically and psychologically. Also bear in mind that while poor sleep, depression and cognitive dysfunction may happen after heart surgery, these are actually very rare, affecting less than 5 per cent of patients. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help,” emphasises Dr Chao.

See previous page for more doctor's tips for a speedy recovery after heart surgery.

Ref: R14