Are you ready for your upcoming surgery? Have you done everything you can to help with your recovery? Or are your habits sabotaging your chances at getting the best results?
Hospitals across the country are adopting surgery fitness programs for their surgical patients. The goal? To improve a patient’s health before surgery and minimize post-op complications. Known as “pre-habilitation” or “pre-surgical optimization” programs, they cover medical treatments, diet, exercise, and even offer tips on reducing stress.
The University of Michigan Health System developed an initiative aimed at helping patients target and strengthen their weaknesses before surgery. Duke University Health also started a program called Perioperative Enhancement Team (POET) to target high-risk surgery patients. And while programs like these may require both time and effort on the part of the patient, the results are worth it.
“A pre-operative game plan is essential for optimal surgical results. Given that nearly 90% of surgeries performed today are elective, there is ample time for patients to plan ahead and contribute to a positive surgical outcome. Just like an athlete trains for a sporting event, patients can (and should) prepare for their surgical procedure,” says VitaMedica’s Founder and Medical Director, Dr. David H. Rahm.
Get Fit for Surgery
Even without conditions like diabetes, anemia, malnourishment, or chronic pain, all of which can be prone to complications, you can benefit by getting fit for surgery. Here’s how:
Get Diabetes Under Control. Diabetics tend to see slower wound healing due to blood sugar issues that lead to poor circulation, neuropathy, and lowered immune system efficiency. Get blood sugar under control to reduce the risk of having high or low blood sugar-related reactions during your procedure. Good blood sugar control also makes infections less likely and promotes healing.
Lose Extra Weight. Obesity and being overweight is associated with more wound-healing complications and deep infections after certain surgical procedures, like hip or knee replacement.
If you’re having a body contouring procedure for example, your plastic surgeon may want you to lose some weight first to achieve the best possible results. A low-sugar, quality meal replacement high in protein and fiber is a good option to reduce your daily caloric intake to help shed pounds while keeping you well-nourished and satiated. Adopting a long-term strategy for weight loss can help you reach your goals in time for your surgery.
Stop Smoking. Smoke inhibits wound healing because it decreases the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to cells, meaning also to your surgical site. In addition, smoking increases the risk of complications during surgery, including the risk of pneumonia and breathing problems, blood clots, tissue damage, and infection.
Some facial plastic surgeons and plastic surgeons will not perform a facelift on patients who smoke, as their wound healing and recovery is inhibited by smoking. If you are a smoker, it’s ideal to stop at least 8 weeks before surgery.
Eat a Healthy Diet. Good nutrition supports healing, so it’s better to start now and build up what your body needs, like vitamins for recovery. In addition to plenty of fruits, vegetables, and unsaturated fats, two of the most important healing elements you need are calories and protein.†
Extra protein is needed to build new tissue and blood vessels, repair injured tissue and increase production of cells that repair the wound. An estimated daily protein requirement (in grams) after surgery is your weight in kilograms (weight divided by 2.2) multiplied by 1.2.
For example, a 150-pound woman would need about 82 grams of protein daily to support wound healing.
Lean meats like wild salmon, turkey breast, chicken breast, or filet mignon are good choices, as well as eggs, beans, and legumes.
Engage in Physical Exercise. If you’re not active prior to surgery, exercising after your procedure is going to be even harder. A pre-surgery boost in activity can help you become mobile more quickly after surgery, which can in turn prevent complications like blood clots and pneumonia. Exercise can also help improve circulation, which may aid in faster healing and recovery. And people who exercise before certain types of surgery, including heart surgery, are more likely to have shorter hospital stays.
Alcohol Cessation. Alcohol suppresses the immune system and should be avoided around the time of surgery. It’s best to stop drinking alcohol two weeks before your procedure, but avoid alcohol at least 72 hours prior to or after surgery.
Stress Reduction. Just the idea of surgery is stressful. If you already experience anxiety, chances are your stress levels will be elevated even further. Less stress will benefit both the mind and body before and after surgery. Prior to the procedure, participate in relaxation techniques like listening to relaxation tapes or soothing music and taking a yoga or meditation class.
Medication Management. It’s a must to know which medications you need to stop taking prior to surgery. Your doctor will give you specific instructions, but important ones to watch out for are those that affect blood clotting, including blood thinners, some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and certain herbs and vitamins.
Nutritional Supplement Management. Supplements are fine on an everyday basis, but some can promote bleeding or interact with other drugs or anesthesia. Avoid any adverse interactions or effects by choosing a supplement program specifically formulated for patients having surgery, like our Recovery Support Program, which supports healing, promotes healthy immune function, and balances inflammatory response.†
Getting physically and emotionally ready for surgery can mean a faster recovery, fewer post-operative complications, a shorter hospital stay, and lower medical costs. Empower yourself and take control before the big day!
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.