Surgery is a tricky thing – you either have time to prepare for it or not. For example, in an unexpected, emergency situation, such as an automobile accident, you may need immediate surgical care to repair significant injures or to save your life. In that situation, you have no time to prepare for the surgery that is needed right away.
But, there are other situations where a surgery will eventually be necessary, however you have time to prepare for it. Bypass or valve surgery for heart disease, bariatric surgeries, knee or hip replacement surgeries, or even prostate cancer surgery, are examples of surgical events that can be planned and prepared for over several weeks, if not months.
If you have a planned surgery for the future, now is the time to make yourself as healthy as possible before you undergo elective procedures.
The surgeon, and his medical team, wants you to have a successful operation and a smooth recovery after the procedure.
By improving your health before surgery, you can significantly reduce your risk of complications. And the more you prepare and get yourself “in shape” for surgery, the better.
Some of the reasons why doctors want you to be in good shape before surgery often revolve around people with these medical issues:
- Infection – Developing an infection after surgery can lead to adverse events with poor wound healing and possibly life-threatening.
- High blood sugars – People with poorly controlled blood sugar levels are at a greater risk of poor healing of wounds and increase risk of infection.
- Anemia – Patients with anemia tend to have more infections, longer postoperative hospital stays, and to require blood transfusions.
- Chronic pain – People who take narcotics for chronic pain have a higher risk of problems with anesthesia.
- Obesity – Carrying excess body weight can lead to greater risk of infections and possible complications from anesthesia.
Here are five ways you can get in shape for surgery with a better chance of recovery:
1. Get active before surgery
Depending on your current physical fitness, even increasing your activity level at a minimum, can benefit your recovery after a surgery. After the operation, your heart and lungs will be working hard to help your body heal. You will want a strong heart and lungs by doing regular exercise. Always get any exercise regimen before a surgery approved by the surgeon performing the procedure. Incorporate a warm-up, some form of aerobics like walking or cycling, and a cool-down. Research has shown that exercise for several weeks or months before a surgery can lead to a more successful outcome afterwards.
2. Start eating more healthy
Eating healthy foods can lead to a healthy recovery. The choices you make before your procedure will influence the speed of your recovery too. Adding in more whole foods and avoiding ultra-processed foods will improve immunity reducing risk of infection, and provide valuable nutrients necessary for healing tissue.
The weeks/months preceding your surgery, focus on eating right to include:
- Healthy proteins like fatty fish (salmon, tuna), chicken, lean beef, eggs, beans, lentils, and nuts
- Whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and quinoa
- Fruits and vegetables of at least 5 servings a day
- Dairy foods such as Greek yogurt, cow’s milk, cottage cheese, and cheese
- Healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds
Ultra-processed foods to avoid include:
- All sugary beverages – soda, lemonades, sweet tea, energy drinks
- Pastries, donuts, candy
- Chips, pretzels, other salty snacks
- Processed meats like sausage, pepperoni, salami, brats
3. Manage your weight
One of the best ways to avoid surgical complications is to lose some weight if you need to before the surgery. There are specific complications related to surgery of people carrying excess body weight. These complications can include blood clots, infections, slower recovery, breathing problems, and a longer hospital stay. Even people, who are preparing for bariatric surgery, are asked to lose some weight before the procedure. For help in losing weight, ask for referral to a registered dietitian who can help you with a dietary plan to safely promote weight loss.
4. Reduce stress
It’s common to feel anxiety or stress before an upcoming surgery. Feelings of powerlessness to fears of anesthesia can hamper your mental health. While it’s impossible to alleviate all stress, you can do things to at least reduce your worries or concerns before the surgery. Here are some ideas that can help:
- Distract yourself with a hobby or other activity you enjoy. This can help focus your thoughts on more pleasant feelings rather than negative thoughts.
- Keep yourself busy and active. When feeling stressed or worried, take a walk or do some gardening. Stretch your body, call a friend, or watch a funny movie.
- Talk to a person you trust about how you are feeling.
- Take all medications as prescribed
If you take prescription medication, talk to your doctor about them before the surgery. Do you need to keep taking them or do you need to stop some of the prescription medication, particularly blood thinners? Before stopping any medication, check first with your doctor for their advice.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.