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Six ways to help speed your recovery after surgery

Healing after surgery always takes time.  But, there are things you can do or not do to help speed your recovery after surgery. And, yes the most basic five are ones that will not comes as a surprise. Keep in mind that it’s always best to have a buddy at the hospital with you before, during and after surgery if at all possible. For more on that and how to prepare for your hospital stay, click here.

  1. Don’t smoke. Smoking is not only bad for your lungs, it’s bad for your entire body.  Smoking hurts your vascular system, which can slow down the speed at which your wounds heal and can lead to infection. If you smoke, keep in mind that Medicare covers smoking cessation programs.  To learn more about Medicare coverage to help with smoking cessation as well as for other preventive services, click here.
  2. Eat well. A poor diet can slow down recovery. If you are malnourished, you will likely have a weaker immune system and your body will be less prepared to recover from surgery. Malnutrition is considered a risk factor for illness and mortality after surgery.  Medicare sometimes covers nutrition counseling.
  3. Keep your weight down to a healthy level. People who are overweight are less fit for surgery, often because they have heart disease, high blood pressure and breathing issues as well. Obesity can slow down the wound healing process. Medicare covers obesity counseling programs.
  4. Take care of your health condition. If you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or hypertension, make sure you are getting good treatment to manage your condition. A managed chronic condition will help you recover faster from surgery. For example, good blood sugar control speeds up healing and reduces the risk of infection.
  5. Make sure you understand and follow directions for your care after surgery. You should receive a written discharge plan before you leave the hospital. And follow these steps before leaving the hospital.
  6. Make sure you understand what medications you should be taking (or not taking) after your surgery. For example, your surgeon or primary care provider may recommend changes to your usual blood thinner (such as aspirin) or diabetes medication after surgery.

Here are two other things you might want to know:

  1. Some evidence suggests that chewing sugarless gum after surgery can help your digestive system to get back to normal, especially if you have a bowel surgery. There is no apparent downside.
  2. Very little evidence supports the notion that carbohydrate supplements prior to surgery speeds the recovery process.

This post was originally published on September 17, 2015.

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