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Preparing for Heart Surgery

If you have a few days or weeks to get ready for heart surgery this is the time to take good care of yourself.

Plan to

  • Eat well try to eat less fatty foods. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Rest between activities walk or do the exercises allowed by your doctor. Stop any exercise if you notice signs of your heart problem.
  • Stop smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipe) smoking causes damage to the heart and lungs. While it is really hard to stop smoking when you are anxious or under stress as before surgery not smoking is one of the best things you can do for your body. Stopping smoking even for a short while helps. You will breathe better and your heart will not have to work as hard. You will have a better chance of recovering from your operation. If you are having difficulty in stopping smoking seek help from your family doctor.

Some tips that may help you to stop smoking

  • Take one day at a time
  • Ask family and friends not to smoke when they are with you
  • When you feel you want to smoke do something with your hands or go for a walk
  • Cut down on coffee, alcohol and other drinks that you usually have with a cigarette
  • Learn to relax, practice deep breathing or read a book or listen to music
  • If you are used to smoking after a meal get up from the table as soon as you have finished eating

Understanding coronary artery disease 
The heart is a muscular pump which pumps blood around the body by means of large blood vessels called arteries.

Coronary arteries supply blood to the heart itself. As you will see from the pictures these vessels are quite small - approximately 1-2mm in diameter. One of the major diseases of our time is atherosclerosis which is a fatty substance (plaque) that builds up on the inside of the blood vessels. When this happens narrowing of the coronary arteries occurs and blood flow is reduced. A person with narrow coronary arteries can experience chest pain and breathlessness which are symptoms of angina. If a blood vessel blocks off completely part of the heart muscle will be damaged and this is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction. There are many factors thought to attribute to this build up of plaque.

  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of regular structured exercise such as brisk walking
  • Family history - people who have close family relatives with heart disease can be more at risk

Coronary angiogram
It is a sophisticated x-ray which shows up the narrowing or blockages of the coronary arteries by means of a dye. Appropriate treatment will be selected by your doctor depending on the extent of the problem. If the narrowing is a minor one medicines may be prescribed.

Coronary angioplasty
Some narrowing may be suitable for coronary angioplasty. This is a specialised treatment /operation which involves widening the narrowing using a small balloon under x-ray guidance and sometimes a small piece of mesh called a 'stent' may be inserted to keep the narrowing open.

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