Optimising your health before and after surgery

Optimising your health before and after surgery
Good Health

Optimising your health before and after surgery can improve your surgical outcomes and reduce the risk of complications. It is particularly important to manage chronic health conditions and obesity so that your body is in the best possible shape for surgery and recovery.  There are a number of modifiable factors that you can control, such as diet and exercise, so consult your surgeon to see if any improvements can be made. Below are some general guidelines:

Before Surgery

Manage Chronic Health Conditions: If you have chronic medical conditions like diabetes or hypertension, speak with your general practitioner or specialist to ensure they are well-managed before surgery. Discuss all medications and supplements you are taking with your surgeon in case modifications need to be made close to surgery.

Weight Management: Healthy weight is important for surgery as obesity can increase the risk of complications during and after surgery. If weight loss is required, aim for stable weight loss over time through diet and exercise. Avoid crash diets. Being underweight can also cause problems and slow down recovery after surgery. Seek help from your health professional if you need specific advice on appropriate diets.

Diet: Your diet and nutrition needs will depend on your age and general health. Prioritise a balanced and nutrient-rich diet that includes plenty of lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Good nutrition can help support your immune system, minimise inflammation and promote wound healing.

Hydration: Stay well-hydrated. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol intake. Remember you may need to follow instructions from your surgeon or anaesthetist to fast in the hours prior to your surgery.

Exercise: General exercise recommendation for healthy adults is 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week (5 days per week), plus 2 resistance training sessions per week. If your exercise routine falls short of these guidelines, it may be worthwhile improving your fitness and training your muscles before surgery. As a general rule, doing some physical activity is better than doing none, as the rest period following surgery may result in reduced conditioning and muscle loss.

Smoking, Vaping and Alcohol: If you smoke or vape, it’s advisable to cease or at the very least. reduce these habits before surgery, as they can strain your heart and lungs, impair wound healing and increase the risk of complications such as blood clots and infections. Nicotine replacement therapy can help reduce the nicotine cravings and can make a big difference in quitting smoking. Alcohol should not be consumed in the 24 hours before an anaesthetic. Alcohol stops your body healing well and can make it more difficult for the anaesthetic to work. Heavy alcohol use can cause bleeding during surgery. If you regularly drink 3 or more standard alcoholic drinks a day, reducing your alcohol intake for at least the 4 weeks before your operation can reduce the risk of surgical complications.

Mental Health: Address any anxiety or stress you may have about the surgery. Consider talking to a health professional such as a psychologist or counsellor if needed.

After Surgery

Follow Medical Advice: Follow your surgeon’s post-operative instructions so that you can heal faster and avoid complications.

Exercise: Depending on the surgical procedure, gradually reintroduce physical activity and exercise following the instruction of your surgeon. Keep in mind, return to exercise timeframes may differ depending on the type of surgery you have had. Generally, start with gentle movements and progressively increase intensity as you heal. Movement and exercise help prevent blood clots, improve breathing and reduce muscle wasting/weakness. With time, aim to return to the recommended adult exercise intensity and duration guidelines as per before surgery.

Diet: Continue to focus on a balanced diet rich in nutrients to support your body’s recovery. Incorporate fibre-rich foods and fluids to promote regular bowel movements in the post-operative period.

Hydration: Stay hydrated, as proper hydration is essential for wound healing and for bowel movements.

Medication: Take prescribed medications as directed, including pain management medications.

Wound Care: Keep surgical wounds clean and dry as instructed. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. Contact your surgeon if you are suspicious of an infection or if the wound site is slow to heal.

Rest: Get adequate rest and sleep to allow your body to heal.

Follow-up Appointments: Attend all scheduled follow-up appointments with your surgeon to monitor your progress.

Remember that every surgery is unique, so it’s essential to tailor these guidelines to your specific surgery by speaking with your surgeon and healthcare team. Your surgeon will provide you with pre- and post-operative instructions based on your surgery type and your individual health needs.

For more information

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Healthy Habits Resource

Hunter New England Health – Get Ready for Surgery

Australian Government – Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians

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