Tips For Safe Exercise After Open Heart Surgery

Exercise after open heart surgery

What is open heart surgery?

Open heart surgery is a procedure commonly performed for coronary artery bypass grafting surgery (for treatment of blocked arteries after a heart attack or to prevent a heart attack) and/or heart valve surgery (repair or replacement).

In the case of coronary artery disease, open heart surgery is often advised when blockages are too diffuse for angioplasty and stenting or the arteries are too difficult to access via catheterisation.

Mitral and/or aortic valve repair or replacement are also common open heart surgery procedures and may stem from a case of childhood rheumatic fever, or perhaps valve damage associated with viral or bacterial endocarditis.

Other reasons for open heart surgery may stem from a congenital heart defect or a heart transplant.  No matter what the reason for your operation, the recovery time and subsequent exercise prescription are quite similar.

Recovery time

Recovery time after cardiac bypass or heart valve surgery can last between six to eight weeks. Because each case is different, you should adhere to the specific guidelines provided by your surgeon or cardiologist. While bed rest is important, it is equally important that you perform low level activity during the recovery phase.

Practical activities such as walking, even at a slow pace, are important for staving off the negative effects of both the surgery and bed rest (i.e., muscle atrophy, muscle and joint stiffness, loss of balance and coordination).

It is quite common for a physical therapist to visit you immediately after open heart surgery to get you up on your feet for short duration walks around the hospital floor.

Most open-heart surgery patients are discharged from the hospital and return home between four and six days.

Resuming activities after surgery

Remember that you’re going to be tired after your surgery. It may be frustrating at times not to be able to do everything you did before your surgery, but just relax and know that this is only temporary.

Before you get back to any heavy exercise, it’s important to get comfortable doing what are known as activities of daily living (ADLs).

The following list can help guide you:

Overhead lifting

You can lift your arms over your head for light activities like putting dishes in the cupboard, but try to minimise 1) lifting heavy objects overhead and 2) having your arms overhead for extended periods of time.  You may find it’s not very comfortable anyway given your sternal incision, but try to work within your pain-free range of motion.

Climbing stairs and steps

You may climb stairs and steps after open heart surgery but you may need to take a graduated approach. Begin with a single flight of stairs and, if you find yourself short of breath, then stop and rest. As you start to feel stronger, gradually increase the number of stairs you climb and reduce breaks.

You might find stairs particularly difficult immediately after surgery since the operation is a trauma on the body and the medications that reduce heart rate and blood pressure might make you feel sluggish.

Lifting during household chores

Your sternum may remain sore for up to two months, maybe longer depending on your individual situation.  You can perform most domestic duties such as washing dishes, preparing meals, washing clothes, light cleaning, and shopping.  Try not to lift much more than 2 to 4.5 kg (5 to 10 lbs) during the initial recovery period until you receive clearance from your surgeon or cardiologist. Pay attention to pushing and pulling activities that jar your sternum and cause discomfort.

Sexual activities

You can resume sex after you’ve received clearance from your doctor (usually a few weeks). But remember, sex can be a stressor on your heart and also the sternum (depending on how adventurous you are). You may need to experiment with different positions that minimise pressure on your sternum, as this is likely to be uncomfortable at least during the first couple of months.

Return to driving

Driving can be dangerous immediately after your surgery since 1) you’re likely to be on a cocktail of medications that can affect your ability to operate a car and; 2) it’s not going to be very comfortable trying to turn a steering wheel while your sternum is still raw and tender. In fact, it might not be comfortable even as a passenger since the seat belt will place direct pressure on your sternum. You may wish to put a light pillow or cushion between your chest and the seat belt.  If necessary, sit in the back seat if your car has an air-bag. If these are deployed during an accident, it can potentially inflict damage to an already weakened sternum.


If you had a trip planned long before your surgery popped up in your schedule, speak to your doctor about your specific plans and get the nod before you board that plane to Mongolia. You’ll want to be geographically close to your medical management team should complications arise in the early days after your discharge. Remember that airplanes are pressurised to approximately 1800 to 2400 metres (6000 to 8000 feet) above sea level so this can place additional demands on your cardiovascular system. You might need to delay your travels until you are both medically stable and feeling physically strong enough for the trip.

Going back to work

Depending on your line of work, it may be advisable to take a month or two off to properly heal. You should speak with your surgeon and/or cardiologist to determine when is the best time to return to work. If you do a physical job, it may take a little longer to be able to perform heavy lifting, pushing, and pulling. If you’re doing an office job, then it maybe more appropriate to return sooner.

Aerobic exercise 

Before taking up any exercise program after open heart surgery, it is advisable to discuss your plans for activity with your surgeon or cardiologist.

As mentioned above, low-level walking is advised in the immediate post-operative phase, but in order to advance to higher exercise intensities, you’d be well advised to partake in a structured cardiac rehabilitation program.  This will help you establish safe exercise intensity limits you can follow out on your own.

As a general rule, engage in aerobic exercises that work the large musculature of your lower body (i.e., your hips/legs), are rhythmic in nature, and can be performed over an extended period of time (i.e., 20+ minutes).

One of the main complaints about aerobic exercise is that it’s boring, so be sure to choose something you enjoy.  This will help improve your chances of sticking with it over the long-term!

If you feel exhausted after open heart surgery, then congratulations, you’re totally normal!  Any open heart procedure places significant stress on the body so give yourself permission to be human!

Begin with multiple (6-8) short duration exercise bouts of about 3-5 minutes each per day.  Then gradually work up to progressively longer duration bouts fewer times per day.  Aim to progress to 40-60 minutes non-stop at a comfortable pace as you advance through the recovery phase.

Sample exercise program

The following is an illustration of a sample exercise plan which may serve as a rough guide (provided your surgical team agrees).  The aim is to wean yourself from shorter to longer exercise durations by minimizing how many exercise bouts you perform each day.

Recovery WeekMinutesTimes per Day


Pay attention to how you feel as you progress from week to week. If you fatigue easily and feel shortness of breath, then you may need to lower your pace, reduce the duration of each exercise bout, or perhaps reduce the number of exercise bouts per day.

Effects of medications

Medications such as beta-blockers will reduce your heart rate response to a given exercise workload, so your pulse may not be an accurate indicator of how hard you’re working.  Even so, it’s still not a bad idea to keep tabs on your exercise heart rate so you know what your individual response is under the effects of your medication regime.

If you have a hard time finding your pulse, get yourself a heart rate monitor or a Fitbit (which also tracks your non-exercise movement habits). Click on each image to check out features and thousands of Amazon user reviews.

Other medications like diuretics and ACE inhibitors can lower your blood pressure before, during, and after exercise. This might make you feel a bit sluggish (along with a lowered heart rate), so give yourself permission to be human and just go with it. As you heal from your surgery and make healthy lifestyle changes, speak to your doctor about reducing the dosages or coming off the meds (as is medically prudent).

Also be aware of potential interactions between heart medications and dietary herbs and supplements. For example, “weight loss” and “detox” teas (such as Skinny Teatox) are loaded with diuretics and laxatives which can lower your blood volume by dehydration. This can leave you feeling dizzy and light-headed which can increase your chance of fainting.

Heart rate and blood pressure aside, gradually work up to a moderate to somewhat hard pace where you’re breathing just hard enough to perform the exercise but can still carry on a conversation with an exercise buddy.  In exercise physiologist parlance, this is known as “the talk test.”

Aerobic exercise precautions

Perform a gradual 5 to 10 minute warm-up and cool down before and after each exercise session, respectively.  Obviously this is more relevant during the longer duration activities.  It will allow your body to gradually accommodate the high intensities and minimize the risk of adverse events.

  • Try to avoid over-exerting yourself immediately following open heart surgery.  Remember your heart is trying to heal itself, so any sharp rise in heart rate and blood pressure could plausibly aggravate the situation.  Stick to the KISS acronym: Keep It Slow and Steady!  If you have any questions about intensity, please discuss this with your heart surgeon or cardiologist.
  • Slowly establish your “fitness foundation.”  Walking and cycling are two common activities which most people can reasonably handle without any ill effects.  Initially stick to level surfaces, but in time you’ll be able to graduate to climbing hills.  If you find yourself short of breath and gasping for air, just ease up the pace a bit.
  • Watch out for environmental stressors such as cold, heat, or strong winds.  Any of these factors can make your exercise routine seem more difficult than usual.
  • Be vigilant of any exercise-induced signs or symptoms and report them to your doctor immediately.  For example, if you feel chest pain or discomfort, slow your pace or stop exercise altogether.  If the symptoms do not subside with cessation of exercise, or it gets worse during rest, then seek emergency medical care.

Exercising at the gym

After you complete your cardiac rehabilitation, you may be cleared to participate in a self-guided exercise program at your local gym. But before you dive into it, it may be advisable to find out if the staff is qualified and equipped to work with cardiac patients.  Ask if there are any trainers with experience working with people with heart problems.  Ask if they have all the relevant emergency protocols in place (i.e., dial 911 [or 000, 111 in some countries] and perhaps an on-site automated external defibrillator (AED).

Strength training (weight lifting)

Strength training is now recognised as an integral part of any post- open heart surgery recovery plan.  It can be safely administered in properly risk stratified cardiac patients who are stable and medically-managed.

While weight lifting might seem counter-intuitive after an open heart procedure, quite the opposite is true.  Where surgery and bed-rest can lead to muscle atrophy and wasting, resistance training is a great way to offset these negative health effects and promote healing.

It may be advisable to start off with lighter weights of not much more than 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) during the first 4 to 6 weeks of recovery or until receiving the go-ahead from your surgeon or cardiologist.

After that, progress at a slow and steady pace (ideally with guidance from an exercise physiologist or physical therapist) to minimize delayed onset muscle soreness.

Carry out your strength training regimen with proper lifting and breathing technique.  Exhale on the exertion (lifting) phase of the movement.   Or as a general rule, do not hold your breath or strain during a lift.

For an overall body workout, target all major muscle groups from largest to smallest.  For example, you can start off with large compound movements such as body weight squats or lunges, then move on to back exercises like a bent-over row or seated row, then a chest press, and finally an overhead press, biceps curl, triceps extension, and then core (abdominal) exercises.  This is a very basic generic routine, but will certainly get you moving in the right direction.

Start your resistance training routine by performing short duration sessions of approximately 15 to 20 minutes. See how your body tolerates this and then progress from there.  Be careful not to overdo it, as a marathon training session may leave you sore and potentially discourage you from continuing with your exercise program.

As mentioned above, start off with light resistance so you can focus first on form and then progress to heavier weights. Start with a weight that allows you to perform 10 to 15 repetitions.  When you can easily get to 15 without any undue fatigue, then consider increasing your weight by 3 to 5 percent (general rule). Seek specific advice from your cardiologist or surgeon for when you can bump up your weights.

You can perform weight training 2 to 3 times per week.  The days in between are to allow for recovery (i.e., your muscles grow stronger).

Strength training precautions

  • As with aerobic training, obtain physician clearance before starting any strength training program.
  • Numbness in the chest area is normal after open heart surgery. The surgery entails cutting nerves in your chest but the feeling usually returns within one year.
  • If signs or symptoms occur during resistance training, stop training immediately. If symptoms do not improve, or if they worsen during rest, seek immediate medical attention.

Take home message

Properly prescribed structured exercise is an important step in the recovery process after open heart surgery.  Exercise, along with rest, a healthy diet, and medications can help you progress through your recovery in the most efficient manner possible.

While the immediate post-surgery, post-discharge period can be daunting, start off slow and ease yourself towards longer durations for your aerobic activity and heavier weights in your resistance training program.

Be aware of how you’re feeling during exercise and watch out for any signs and symptoms which might indicate complications.

If your open heart surgery procedure was a result of coronary artery disease, then it is particularly important that you maintain a healthy lifestyle to minimise the chances of your arteries reoccluding (blocking up again).

Be share your thoughts, experiences, or questions below in the comments section.



  1. Hey Doc. GREAT article and GREAT advise. I’m 61. Male. 12 weeks out from aortic valve replacement. Pig tissue. Before surgery I used an exercise bar called a BULLWORKER. Excellent isometric workout for total body especially my bad lumbar. Basic idea is to hold the pushes and pulls for 10 seconds each body part. What’s the deal on hard isometric exercises with a tissue valve? This thing has been like an old friend for many years. Hate to be unable to use it anymore. Thanx Doc. ‘Preciate your time and experience. -Bill

    • Hi Bill, Thanks for your message. Glad to hear you’re on the other side of the surgery and getting back into the swing of things. Before I answer, I should preface my comments by saying I cannot give specific advice due to legal reasons (i.e., I’m not familiar with every aspect of your health history, etc).

      In your situation, you’ve had a valve replacement instead of bypass surgery. In my experience, those who’ve had valve repair/replacement WITHOUT coronary artery disease (blockages in the blood vessels) generally tend to do quite well with getting back into their old routine and, all things considered, can be quite durable. I would suggest talking to your cardiologist and see about arranging a stress test on the treadmill. If you’re able to tolerate a reasonably high workload (high intensity), then it is likely any stress on your body imposed by the “bullworker” would be less than this. But again, only your medical management team can give you specific advice.

      The bottom line is that you just need to make sure that you’ve got the following boxes ticked:
      1) medically stable.
      2) no underlying issues such as high blood pressure, malignant arrhythmias, coronary artery disease or other issues which may be worsened with exercise.
      3) attend cardiac rehab with an exercise physiologist and cardiac nurse while on the monitors to make sure you’re responding normally.

      If you’ve got the all clear on the above, then you’re likely going to be fine with getting back into your exercise program. Hope this helps.

      Best wishes,

  2. Hello, Thank you for all this wonderful information. I am 36. female. 8 weeks after mitral valve replacement, tissue. I have been off work for about 1 year. I lift 50lb bags on my job and I was having a problem finding out what I was able to do after surgery to get me back to lifting like that in a 8 hour shift. I finally found it and I thank you so much. My incision is not completely healed yet but getting better now that they gave me an antibiotic. I just don’t want to screw anything up in there with the wires and all, lifting weights. Thanks so much

  3. Hey Doc. Very happy to report that I’ve been back to my old workout for over a month now. Started out easy. Chest muscles were a little sore at first. Just massaged them out. Feel like I’m really back in the saddle again. BIG thanx for your advice. -Bill

  4. Dr. Sukala,

    I had a cabg performed on two arteries one month ago and am recoverying ahead of schedule. I am where I need to be in recovery at this point in time.

    I am up to 45 – 60 minutes of treadmill 5 times a week at a walking pace. I feel great and the future looks good for me.

    I am 57 year old male,slim frame, 173lbs. and have been body building for 37 years. My plan is to resume my presurgery lifestyle asap. In your opinion, what time frame do you think it may be safe to continue with bench press exercises?

    I do plan on starting light and increasing as my recovery will allow. I have been getting conflicting information regarding this issue. I have told by the Cardiologist not to train at all, or to wait up to a year before doing chest exercises again. From your experience in the gym, what is you opinion regarding chest exercised post cabg surgery?



    • Hi Robert,
      Thanks for your comment. You’re clearly doing very well in your recovery. Your cardiovascular fitness looks like it’s coming along in leaps and bounds. However, as for your bench press you’ll need to remember that your sternum will need to heal up well and get stronger. This can take a while, perhaps a good 6 months plus. A year out and it should be reasonably strong. I can’t legally give you any specific advice as I’m not fully aware of your medical history, but I do think you should see if you can find a qualified masters degree level exercise physiologist. Then have him/her work with your cardiologist or cardiac rehab team to work you back up to the heavier weights. Bottom line: be cautious and prudent in your approach and don’t do too much too soon. Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  5. Hi Doc
    greetings from India

    I am 45 yrs old. My medical history is as follows:
    Single vessel angioplasty(LAD) 2005
    Emergency CABG for stent block 2010 July
    Last Tread mill test in jan 2013- normal
    Ejection fraction 45%
    Presently on Atorvastatin,aspirin, clopidrogel, cardevilol
    Presently i do a brisk walk of 6 kilometers in an hour as the only form of exercise. I dont have any cardiac rehab in my country so i built my own program reading all the websites here.
    Now i would like to know:
    1. is this exercise good enough?
    2. my upper limb & chest muscles got wasted after the CABG and i want to get them better. Plz tell me how?

    Thanks & Best wishes

    • Hi Rakesh,
      Whilst I cannot give specific medical advice on this site for legal reasons, you should be aware that walking is a very common exercise prescribed for people after having heart surgery. It is a very functional exercise, but you must be sure to pay attention to and get immediate medical attention for any signs or symptoms which may arise. As for your muscles, resistance training (weight lifting) is indicated for people who are medically stable. However, with your ejection fraction being 45%, it may be advisable to discuss this with your cardiologist to make sure there are no specific reasons for which weight lifting might be unsafe. Your best bet is to err on the side of caution and make sure you’re exercising at a moderate level. But again, do have a talk with your cardiologist to work together in creating an exercise regimen that is right for you. Kind regards, Bill

  6. Had 3xCABG 8 months ago, feel slight pain in left elbow after been on treadmill for over 5 minutes and goes away after finishing treadmill, any advice

  7. Hi Doc,
    I’m a heart bypass triple surgery last year july,but now I want to go back on my routine in the gym. Am I allowed to go back again and make myself be comfortable as a body builder.

    • Hi Alexander,
      Thank you for your comment. I cannot give you specific recommendations because I am not aware of your entire medical history. Considering you had your surgery last July (likely 2013), your sternum should be pretty well healed up by now. Assuming you have been to your cardiologist and have had a full check up with high intensity stress test (on the treadmill), you might be able to get back to doing some heavy lifting again. We do know that weight lifting is acceptable for people after they’ve had bypass surgery, but again, you must be sure that you have safety clearance from your cardiologist who will be most familiar with not just your heart condition, but any other conditions which might be present. Also bear in mind that certain medications can drag you down a notch and make you feel a bit tired, such as beta blockers. Feel free to post a comment again and let me know how you got on at the doctor’s office. Good luck!

  8. I was 62 in 2011 whenI had a 5 way heart bypass surgery. Didn’t have a heart attack, just a little burning in my breast bone area. The the Dr. said I might need a couple of stints, but when I woke up after surgery I was in awe, I had wires & tubes coming out of everywhere. My Dr. only said I had to walk 30 mins. a day, that to me is a little mickey mouse. He did say 30 days after in had my open heart surgery that I could play tennis. My question is, is this enough exercise to keep my heart strong enough so my heart doesn’t get plug up again? Oh yea, one other thing my whole heart was 90 to 95% blocked. Yea, I’m lucky to be alive!

    • Hi David, Thank you for your comment. Depending on how active you were before your heart surgery, that 30 minutes the doc recommended might not sound like much. Based on what I can gather from the context of your post, you seem to be a pretty active guy. Docs generally tend to recommend a generic program which will cover most people. Given that your surgery was around 3 years ago, you clearly would be well healed up and probably able to tolerate most activities. However, if you’ve had blockages once, then it is possible they could pop up again somewhere else in the heart. Not a guarantee, but I have seen it happen. If you were looking to do very strenuous, demanding, and longer duration exercise, then you might be well advised to have a proper stress test done to ensure that your body can handle it.

      To ensure your heart doesn’t get plugged up again, the best available evidence still suggests that you get in regular exercise (see above) and, of course, eating all the good stuff (fruits, veggies, fiber etc). There is a lot of stuff popping up on the media radar these days that says you can eat all the saturated fat you want and it won’t affect your heart, but I’m not convinced the preponderance of evidence is there yet to support this. Everyone’s looking for short-cuts to health, but in the near 25 years I’ve been in the health business, I can tell you that the advice to simply “eat less, move more, don’t smoke” is still your best medicine to keep the doctor (and his scalpel) away! Hope this helps. Let me know how you go. All the best, Bill

  9. At age 60 I had aortic valve replacement and coronary bypass surgery (4/14). I was in reasonably good shape prior to rapid onset of high blood pressure symptoms which lead to surgery on an emergency basis – discovered that I had a congenital heart defect which contributed to BP problem. Post surgery I experienced visible atrophy of chest muscles near my arms. I’ve been following a work out regimen of weight training with emphasis on chest, arms, and back. I see visible results and feel like I’ve got about 60% of my total strength back, but I am concerned that my chest muscles may never recover. I’m taking medication to maintain my blood pressure – my sense is that it keeps my heart rate down even when I exercise. Any suggestions for building back normal chest musculature?

    • Hi Russell,
      Thank you very much for your comment. I can empathise with you, as I’ve worked with many people who’ve had open heart surgery and had similar problems with their chest muscles getting back into shape. It’s one of those darn side effects of splitting you down the middle like a salmon. Nevertheless, there is hope. First, I would say that you need to be patient. If your surgery was on April 14th of this year, then you’ve still got some healing happening. Your sternum itself may take a while, anywhere from six months up to a year to strengthen up. The sternum doesn’t like saws anywhere near it unless it’s just cutting wood. Also remember that you may have some adhesions which can make you feel quite stiff. Stretching might help bring back some of your range of motion in your chest and shoulders. I think that you will find that as your sternum heals back and becomes stronger, along with your muscles, then you should be able to tolerate higher weights (with your doc’s clearance, of course) which will help you build up your muscles again. It is very much a case of being patient and letting your body run its natural course through the healing process.

      Regarding exercises, you will find that both compound and isolation exercises for your chest will help bring back some development. For example, bench press or dumbbell press are good all around compound movements and chest flyes or cable cross overs will provide a bit more isolation work. You might also find that incline dumbbell press will help work your upper pec muscles and bring about some development.

      Best wishes and please be sure to come back and leave a comment regarding your progress.

  10. Hi Dr. Bill,
    I had mitral valve repair surgery on Oct 20, was released from the hospital on Oct 24. It was standard open heart surgery where they cut right down the middle of the sternum. My question is, does this cut through the pectoral muscles or connecting cartilage or something? It has been almost 3 weeks since my surgery and my pectoral muscles are still extremely weak, and seem to get strained/hurt so easily. I lifted a small laundry basket and the pain from that persists for 3 days now in my right chest. So I switched to trying to use my left arm for everything and being careful not to strain it, and the next day it was feeling strained as well. So yesterday, with both arms feeling strained/injured, I started trying to use my feet for anything i could think of to minimize use of either arm. 3 weeks seems like plenty of time to me for these to heal, I am 44 and was pretty healthy before the surgery. I know I’m not going to be doing push ups or anything for a year but my chest muscles get hurt doing things like gently pulling a towel down from the shower rod. Rarely certain movements cause a little pain in my chest bone, and I was told to expect that. But the pec muscle thing is very frustrating I don’t know what to do that would help besides minimizing the use of my arms.

    • Hi Eric,
      You are still very fresh out of your surgery. Open heart surgery is very hard on the body and requires at least a good 2-3 months before you start feeling “good” again. The sternum can take a year or so to fully heal. If you are still feeling soreness just one month post op, then this is quite normal. You should not be doing any lifting precisely for the reasons you mentioned in your comment. I would recommend speaking with your cardiac rehab team at the hospital where they did the surgery and discuss your concerns with them. They should recommend just range of motion exercises which will help keep you from stiffening up too much. I agree that it is very frustrating but I can assure you that in the next month or two, you should be feeling considerably better. Best wishes.

  11. Hi Bill, I’m in a unique situation as I was a bodybuilder prior to the op so I was weight training seriously for over 10 years. It’s been exactly six months since my surgery and I still can’t quite do heavy bench pressing, push ups, or pull ups without stressing the chest and it feels scary when I try. I haven’t lifted any weights on any bodyparts because I wanted to be 100% before going back full tilt. How much longer do you think I will have to wait to do this, and is there anything I can do to speed up the process (lifting around the chest for example)? On a side note, I am regularly doing HIIT cardio and my cardiovascular endurance is the best it’s been in a very long time.

    • Hi Luke,
      Thanks for your comment. If you’re six months post-op, then you have to remember that your sternum is still healing. You might find that it could take a good year for the bone to get its strength back. I could certainly imagine that any kind of pressing motion at this stage might be uncomfortable. Lighter weights might not be too much of an issue, but again, remember that there is still healing happening on the inside!

      Regarding speeding up the healing process, I don’t think there’s any magic bullet for this. I would, however, suggest doing mobilisation (stretching) exercises to maintain mobility around your collective shoulder girdle. This can sometimes get a bit tight/stiff with scar tissue/adhesions forming around the sternal incision site. If you’re stretching and find yourself saying “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” then (obviously) don’t do that, or at least don’t push it to the red line!

      Have you been back to your cardiologist for a proper treadmill stress test? This might be a good idea to ensure that your ticker is working properly and there are no hidden surprises lurking which might be awakened/worsened by doing heavy lifting. Just a prudent suggestion that I tend to recommend to very active/fit people like yourself.

      Also, I would recommend discussing your specific situation re: your sternum with your surgeon and/or cardiologist since the human body is not always a one-size fits all (when it comes to open heart surgery). My mantra is always the same: safety first.

      Keep me posted on how you get along. Good luck!

  12. Thanks for getting back to me. I just realized I forgot to mention two very key points.
    1) I am only 29 years old.
    2) I had an aortic root aneurysm and NOT a bypass or even a valve replacement.

    Does that change anything? I would think being younger and not having any artery clogging problems would be on my side when it comes to healing (my recent echo shows my heart is perfectly fine now).

    I also just started doing some light chest work with dumbbells and the hammer strength machine, as well as variations of lat pulldowns for my back.

    • Hi Luke,
      Thanks for the additional information. Considering you are younger and do not have any coronary artery disease, this does put you in a better situation. I say this because I’ve seen many patients after a bypass procedure end up going back in for a stent or follow up bypass for other clogged arteries. I often suggest to active people like yourself that they discuss having a stress test with their cardiologist if you’re going to be pushing higher intensities (either weight training or cardio). But if you’ve been given the all clear regarding the heart itself, then you’re probably just playing a waiting game for the sternum to get a bit stronger. I wish there was a way to speed it up, but a little bit of patience will probably be your best bet for the time being! Best wishes

    • Hi luke,i am just interested with your case,as I have ascending aortic aneurysm,4.8cm. I am scheduled for an open heart surgery with in this month. I hope I can still live a normal and active life after my surgery.

      • Hi Chelly I am 37 years old female I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve which has never caused an issue but in May it was detected that I and had an ascending aortic aneurysm of 6.2cm. I had open heart surgery 6 weeks ago to repair it and am starting to feel really really great. Hardly any pain left in my chest plate. Mainly muscular and nerve discomfort. My biggest problem is remembering that it takes time to recover completely and to no push myself too hard too soon.

  13. Well I have been doing HIIT cardio on the treadmill for several months now but I’ll ask about the stress test anyway. I’ll just have to be patient I guess! Thanks Dr!

    • Good onya Luke. I’m sure you’ll be fine given all the factors in your favour. To be honest, I’m just like you. I’m not a very good patient when I’m injured and can’t go surfing! I’ve had two knee blowouts over the years and that kept me dry-docked for a while. It sucks, but good news is that it’s just temporary! Stay healthy amigo!

  14. Greetings

    Dr. Sukala

    In May 2014 I had OHS, and my chest hurts like…. Your comments to Russell was very helpful. I have no feeling in my breast my chest hurts so terribly bad. Where my incision is, and surrounding even inside my chest feels like a Tens Unit, sore, and is so darn painful off the rector scale. What I am experiencing with pain and pressure is 10+++

    Days after my surgery I kept telling my family that I feel metal in my chest it honestly feels hard, cold, and I can feel steel and metal rubbing or sliding. When I went for my check up I informed my surgeon, and he said you do have a plate in your chest. He was like in shock by me describing what I can feel, and this feeling has not left. My comfort level is poor their are times it feels like it is shifting. Somewhat like a door hinge that is broken and you know it needs to be repaired because every time you open the door you have to adjust the plate in order to close it. There are times it feels like its swinging, and times I ‘SCREAM’
    My movement is tight chested I do minimal exercises, and stretches. As much as I want to believe this will go away I’m convinced, and fully persuaded that this pain is not going anywhere nor the metal, and abundance of pressure, and hot at times.
    I have many allergies therefore I have to endure this pain without pain meds. Perhaps you may have some encouraging words or suggestions that I can share with my physician so I can have some type of relief. Thank You

    Lisa S — Houston, TX

    • Dear Lisa,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I am not happy to hear you’re having such a hard time. This is generally not the norm, but I have seen cases in cardiac rehab where some people had a more difficult recovery than others. Considering that your surgery was back in May of 2014, I would imagine that by now (under normal circumstances) that the bulk of your discomfort would have subsided. I don’t have any magic solution to make it go away, nor do I make any representation that I’m an expert on pain science. I would suggest the following: 1) Perhaps have another talk with either your surgeon or cardiologist to discuss this in greater depth. Perhaps they’ll be able to present some options for you; and 2) if appropriate, perhaps you could get referred to a pain clinic where they might be able to work with you on some strategies for minimising your discomfort. You have to remember that pain, although you feel it in your chest, ultimately originates in certain regions of the brain. There have been cases of people who lost limbs in wars, accidents, etc and had excruciating pain in their non-existent phantom limb (the one that’s gone). So you might ask, “how the heck can you have pain in a limb that’s not even there?!” They were able to use a mirror box to trick the brain to treat the pain. Have a look at this video here—>

      Mirror Box Pain Therapy

      Point is, pain has its origins upstairs in the noggin. I’m not saying that this will be a solution for you, but if they’re worth their salt at the pain clinic, they may have some creative strategies like the mirror box to fool your brain into letting go of the pain. I’m sorry I can’t offer any specific suggestions, but I think having a consult with your docs and possible referral to a pain clinic might be a good start. No one should have to live with this kind of pain your describing, and I agree that going straight to pain medications is not necessarily the answer. Please leave another comment after your consults and let me know how you’re progressing. Warm regards, Bill

  15. Hi Dr Sukala.
    I had my open Heart operation ( AVR) done on 1st April 2014,I went through hell of a time ,while my recovery ,I am feeling better now , I have strated going to Gym ,.can you please advice me what exercise I can do..
    Thanking you

  16. Hi Dr. Bill,
    I am 36 years old, last March I was diagnosed with aortic aneurysm both ascending and descending,and my doctor advised me to undergo open heart surgery. My question is can I still go back to gym after my open heart surgery? is it still possible for me to get pregnant via normal delivery?

    • Hi Chelly, I’ll respond in depth when able, but the short answer is yes. You’ll need to work with your cardiologist and team. Better the aneurysm you know than the one you don’t, especially a surgically repaired one!

    • Hi Chelly,
      Message 2 here. As I said above, any diagnosed aneurysm is better than an undiagnosed one that ruptures unexpectedly. So whilst I’m not happy to hear you have to undergo open heart surgery, I am glad to know that, at your young age, it has been diagnosed and will be properly treated. Just for clarity, I am a clinical exercise physiologist by profession (not a cardiologist), but worked in cardiac rehab for many years. I have seen a lot of abdominal aortic aneurysm patients come through and perform very well through the cardiac rehab process. In your case, I’d guess that you probably have clean coronary arteries so that is a positive. Provided your valves are in good working order, then really, all things considered, you don’t have a heart problem per se. You just have a bad pipe that needs some aggressive plumbing work to repair it. Surgery is surgery though, so if it’s for a AAA repair or bypass surgery, there will be some trauma on the body and you may feel a bit worn out and tired after the procedure. Just know that it’s quite normal to feel that way. I used to explain surgery to people by saying it’s like you had a car accident and had some trauma to the body. You have to expect you’re going to be a little sore and worn out for a while. It’s just the nature of the beast.

      Regarding exercise, I think that provided you are medically stable and cleared by your cardiologist and surgeon to resume exercise, then you should be fine. Your sternum will be a bit tender for a bit so just know that going in. You will need to avoid any heavy exertion and/or pressure on the chest until that bone starts to heal up properly and the pain goes away (i.e., there could be some nerve damage from the surgery, but talk to your docs about it).

      As for the pregnancy, my short answer is, I don’t know. Plus this would depend on your particular condition. No two people are exactly alike, so my recommendation is simply to discuss this in depth with your docs and work on getting the best outcome. I hope you find this helpful and reassuring. Leave a comment down the road after your procedure and I’ll be happy to help where I’m able. Kind regards, Bill

  17. Hi Dr.Bill,
    Thanks for your reply. I’m looking forward to a healthier me after the operation. More power to you!

  18. Hi Dr Bill,
    I had open heart surgery on 2nd Nov 2014 as a result of attack which happened at my place of work. I was stabbed in the chest which had pierced my right ventricle. This was repaired and was six months on the 2nd of May 2015 since i had the surgery. I am looking to start exercising because i have gained weight since after the surgery.

    I am wondering if it is safe for me now to start exercising.

    Your expert advise on this will be appreciated

    • Hi Peter,
      Wow, that’s an incredible story. I haven’t had that kind of comment on my blog before! I’m glad that they saved you and were able to fix your ventricle. I’m guessing that you put on weight because the post-surgery recovery process really knocked down your energy levels. If so, then congratulations, you’re normal. If you feel like a train ran over you, it kinda did. Surgery is a trauma to the body (as I explained to Chelly in a different comment) and you have to be nice to yourself and give yourself permission to be a little out of shape after something so profoundly life-altering like a knife attack and surgery.

      In answer to your question of whether or not it’s safe to exercise, I would suggest the following:
      Speak with your cardiologist and surgeon to make sure they give you the all-clear to exercise. You might request that they do a treadmill stress test on you in order to see what kinds of exercise intensities your body can withstand without any signs, symptoms, or abnormal changes in your ECG from rest to peak exercise. Provided that’s all in order, then they will probably give you the green light to get back into your exercise groove.

      Even with clearance, make sure you ease back into it and don’t try to do too much too soon. And that’s prudent advice for anyone, whether you’ve had surgery or not. If you have a cardiac rehabilitation program at your hospital, I would advise you to do it for at least a month in order for them to check out your ticker on the ECG under different exercise intensities. If after a month or so they’re not seeing anything too out of the ordinary, then with reasonable confidence you should be able to get back to living life to the fullest.

      I should also point out that since you had a trauma to the heart (stab wound) and not coronary artery disease (CAD), then this changes the landscape of things. Provided your ventricle is all healed up and your arteries are clean, then it’s highly unlikely you’re going to have a heart attack due to atherosclerotic plaque. To be honest, the cardiac patients that keep me awake at night are the ones with CAD since, even if they’ve had an angioplasty/stent or bypass surgery, there is always a chance that a treated artery can block up again or another artery could plug up and cause problems.

      Thanks for leaving a comment Peter. Best wishes to you and please feel free to leave a comment after you’ve started your exercise. Cheers, Bill

      • Hi Dr Bill,

        Thanks for replying my question. t is been 7 months since my surgery. I met with the cardiologist yesterday 8-6-15 and he gave me all clear. He told me to start exercising but i should do it slowly. 30 mins everyday and slowly build it up.

        Also the ECG done March this year came out good and the consultant was happy with my progress. He equally said i do not need Cardiac Rehabilitation Exercise as my breathing is normal and my recovery is going on good

        I must say that heart surgery is the most painful thing i have ever experienced in my life. I felt like i was hit by a train but am very happy with my progress. I wish everyone out there who has going through this painful process quick and swift recovery…

      • Thank Bill,

        It’s been 2years and 5 months now. I have recovered well but my body still tells me sometimes that I had surgery. Sometimes when I love on my side, I feel slight pains but I am happy to tell you that I am exercising now.

        It’s been a painful journey. The traumas was horrible but I am lucky to be among the ones who survived. Wish all who have undergone surgery quick recovery.

        • Thanks for your comment Peter. There is absolutely no doubt that open heart surgery is a trauma to the body and it does take time to get back to feeling well again. I’m very happy to see that you’re back exercising again and refusing to let the pain stop you. I’m sure your words will provide some reassurance to others who’ve had the same procedure. Kind regards, Bill

  19. Hi Dr. BILL,
    I AM ALMOST 5 MONTHS POST-OP CABG for diffuse coronary artery disease (12 blockages) and 7 by pass grafts.

    QUESTION? I feel as if a section of my sternal incision, approx 2 inches long and just between my breasts, is ? FORMING ADHESIONS OR?. After sitting for a short time, say an hour watching TV, when I stand up I feel as if the inside of my chest wall is sticking to my sternum, or grabbing onto the wires? Do you know if this is a common occurrence or should I be concerned? Will this eventually fade? As my cardiologist says he is not familiar with post op sternal pain such as I am describing, is it worthwile to see my surgeon re this problem? Also, will myofa fascial massage at the incision site be helpful?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to answer concerns here, very much appreciated.


    • Hi Audrey,
      I’m sorry to hear you’re having some prolonged pain five months after surgery. In my experience, everyone responds a bit differently to the surgery. Some people come out of it fresh as a daisy and others have a difficult time where it’s the gift that keeps on giving. In your case, I think the most prudent course of action at this time is to have a talk with your surgeon. If you try massage and this helps, then all the better, but just make sure that whatever course of action you take that it’s not worsening things. Again, best bet is to have a talk with your surgeon and see if you can get a bit more information specific to your condition.
      Kind regards

  20. Dr. Sukala,

    How to begin to restore range of motion of right arm, following less invasive robotic mitral valve repair with annuloplasty ring? Surgery was 5/26. I am up to walking one easy mile, three times a day, but my right arm is tight as a drum and still hurts to raise. I’m an avid dog walker. I have an option to begin a local hospital rehab program Tuesday. I am also a distance swimmer. Thanks for help.

    • Hi Bernie,
      Considering you’re less than one month post op, I think patience will be your best friend for a while. You sound like an active guy and, to be honest, active people that have heart surgery are often “bad patients” because they often want to get straight back to high intensity weight training, marathon training, etc. It’s often easy to do too much too soon when what you need is a bit of patience and just keeping up with some light exercise. I would encourage you to do the cardiac rehab program since they can hook you up to a telemetry monitor and see how your ticker is doing under exercise stress. If nothing that exciting (i.e., arrhythmias etc) then you can probably get back to your regular routine without too much worry. As for your range of motion, you’ll probably find that over the next several months it will start to improve naturally. Remember that surgery is a trauma to the body and it does take time to heal. In our cardiac rehab program, we’d often encourage people after open heart surgery to do light to moderate exercise for the first 6-8 weeks and then after approval from the cardiologist they can graduate to higher intensities. Bottom line: just be nice to yourself and give yourself permission to be human and heal properly. Kind regards, Bill

  21. No, nothing like that 🙂 Just swimming and walking the dog. I got a go-ahead from my surgeon today to attend my rehab orientation and will progress slowly from there. Thanks! My main question was things I can do to be able to raise my right arm full extension again.

    • Hi Bernie,
      Good choice to enter into the cardiac rehab program. I’m sure it’ll help give you a boost of confidence to make sure everything is running smoothly with the ticker. As for your arm, I think you’ll gain mobility with it naturally as you progress through the healing process. Speak with the cardiac rehab team to get you doing movements like “wall walks” with your fingertips where you slowly walk your fingers up the wall until you feel pain (as in “ouch that hurts” kind of pain). Make a note of how far you got and then progress gradually. They might also give you some stretches which may help your mobility around the collective shoulder girdle. Again, just be patient and you’ll get there. Best wishes to you.

  22. hi Dr Bill Sukala
    i underwent CABG for triple vessel blockage20 days back,i am 56,i was in gym and while running at 5.5 km treadmil i observed the stress in my chest and net day been to check the heart i got discharged
    8 days back and started walking 6-10 mts and with target of 1.5-2.0 km per day
    but i am very tired and heart beat goes upto 115 from 102 normal after surgery,i use to have 60-65 pre surgery
    shall i stop the walking target and concentrate after six weeks
    pl guide the best suitabale excercise for whole body,i am 66 kg with 166cm height

    thanks and regards
    Dr srinivas

    • Hi Dr Srinivas
      I see you were very recently released from the hospital. You still have a lot of healing taking place on the inside and at the sternal incision site. At this stage, as I wrote in my article, it is important that you continue with light workloads and just try to make sure you’re not overdoing it. After 6-8 weeks, then you might consider higher intensity exercise. If you can work with a clinical exercise physiologist in your area with experience in cardiac clients then I think that would be a big help. Also talk to your cardiologist about doing a treadmill stress test on you in a month or so to ensure you do not have any rhythm abnormalities before you get into higher exercise intensities. Regarding your heart rate, it is difficult to say what’s going on there without knowing your entire medical history. Moreover, I’m legally unable to give anyone specific advice on my website. In the meantime, just be patient and keep doing your low level exercise until you’ve healed a bit more. Hope this helps. Cheers, Bill

  23. Hello Doc,
    I have underwent cabg surgery for the blockage of 2 arteries.i’m discharged from the hospital 5days back after the surgery & i’m 52.
    Now i’m felling a rod like structure in between my breast bone when i’m moving my neck around which is causing me a lot of pain.i also can’t sleep on my left hand because of the pain in the hand.It is insane for me to get up from the bed without a person’s help.I also can’t walk.More than all this i’m having cough which is causing me a severe pain in the heart.So i sincerely will be waiting for your advice.
    best wishes & regards

    • Hi Venkateswar,
      Thank you for your comment. First and foremost, I would advise you to bring this to the attention of your surgeon and/or cardiologist. Though I will say, in my experience, it’s quite common to feel a bit of discomfort in the breast bone after open heart surgery. Your surgery was very recent, so it’s important to remember that you will need to give yourself some time to heal from this. You’re not going to be up and running a marathon in the next week or two, so just remember that you’ll need some down time. Please refer to my article where I mentioned that it can take a good two months before you start feeling a bit normal again, and your breast bone can take a good year for it to heal up properly. I know it’s not a fast process, but you should be ok. If you’re alarmed by this, I would strongly encourage you to speak to your surgeon. Best wishes, Bill

      • Thanks Dr bill for your advice.It’s a bit better today.But,can you tell me how to stop my cough.cough is the only thing which is making me suffer.I am also using medicines for cough,But no use.So please tell me how to stop my cough.

        • Hi Venkateswar,
          I couldn’t help you with that. You need to get that checked out by your doctor and properly diagnosed/treated. Sorry I can’t be of further help.
          Kind regards

  24. dear doc,

    i am prakash cardiorespiratory physiotherapist, i am working in a cardiac rehabilitation dept,in india

    plz answer my two question
    1)whether i am fit for cardiac rehab
    2)when we have to start cardiac rehab after cardiac surgery
    plz answer me

    • Hi Prakash,
      Thank you for your comment. In answer to your questions:
      1) I’m not sure if you’re asking this for yourself as a patient or on behalf of your patients.
      2) As for when a patient starts cardiac rehab after cardiac surgery, this will depend on the individual patient, their condition, comorbidities, if they had post-surgery complications, the medications they’re taking. There are a LOT of factors that contribute to when exercise can begin.

      But as a general guide, you can mobilise a patient within 48 hours after surgery by getting them out of bed, having them walk around the nurses station. They just need to be upright and gravity bearing in order to get their bodies functioning normally under normal orthostatic load. Keep close to the patient in case they feel light-headed and dizzy.

      Once the patient is discharged from the hospital after 4-7 days, then they can continue to do light walking around the house and neighbourhood on level surfaces (no hills). After two to three weeks, if feeling well, they can come back into the hospital cardiac rehabilitation program as an outpatient and work with you and your physiotherapy team doing structured exercise, checking heart rates, blood pressures, etc.

      I am available for consulting to hospital cardiac rehabilitation programs. If you’d like to discuss this, please email me.

      Kind regards

      • thank you for your reply answers
        my question is i am a Master of physiotherapy graduate,am i eligible to work in cardiac rehab as a exercise instructor

        • Hi Prakash, the answer to that will depend on your country’s professional guidelines and scopes of practice. In Australia and New Zealand, you can be a physiotherapist and work in cardiac rehab. As long as you have the clinical skills to work with cardiac clients then I imagine you will be fine.

  25. Dr,
    My husband had a triple by pass last week he is recovering very well. His legs and feet are extremely swollen. He is taking 20mg of Lasix two times a day. Is it safe to massage his legs at this point in his recovery?

    • Hi Adele,
      You’d have to ask your husband’s cardiologist if this is appropriate at this point. I would imagine they should still have him in compression stockings to help improve return blood flow and minimise swelling. Ask his doc if this is appropriate, as each case is unique. It’s still early days into his recovery so patience will be key at this point. In the next month I’m sure you’ll see him improve significantly. Keep me posted. Kind regards, Bill

  26. hi doctor .myself nagamani. on aug 22nd 2015 ,my mother had cabg bypass surgery .
    because of the double vessel disease. they made incisions to both legs and for the chest also. it is very terrible to me. she is suffering with diabetes also. how long it will take to heal the incisions and when can she begin her activities by herself? when can she get up by her own ? and so many doubts are there.
    but please reply me for these questions now……. please iam waiting for ur reply


    • Hi Nagamani,
      It’s hard to say exactly when your mother’s wounds will heal after her surgery. Wound healing can take longer in diabetic people. Wounds heal slowly and can worsen rapidly, so you should be very watchful over your mother while she’s healing from her surgery. There are several factors that influence wound healing in a diabetic patient, and may include: high blood sugar levels, poor circulation, nerve problems related to diabetes (neuropathy), immune system deficiency, and infection.

      You should work very closely with your mother’s doctors and find out as much as you can to ensure that her incision site remains clean. Without knowing anything about your mother’s detailed medical history or her current situation, it’s hard to say exactly when she can get back to exercise. However, if you’re able to help her around the house by just getting her up on her feet, that is a step in the right direction. She must not be bed-ridden all the time as this can lead to muscle wasting. After about 2-3 months, I would imagine that her chest incision should be healed and she should be feeling considerably better after her surgery.

      Again, I suggest working closely with her doctors to make a plan that is right for her.

      Kind regards,

      • Thanks for ur reply sir.but iam scaring about her wounds ? what should i do? and she had an emergency cabg . but why can’t they do by stunt? they said that left main coronary atery means compulsory bypass has to do, is it true? and coming to her health condition .her blood sugar level is under control itself. but the incision of the chest has littile gap between the skin. her wounds are dressing by me only dialy. can you give me any suggestions in doing dressing?

        • Hi Nagamani, yes, a CABG is commonly required for the left main artery since it feeds two other major arteries. Regarding the incision and dressings, you really need to work closely with one of your doctor’s nurses to ensure you’re doing it right. I cannot advise you on this on the internet. Kind regards

  27. What are your thoughts on heavy weight training for someone whose had open heart surgery to get his aortic root aneurysm fixed? Any extra risk doing damage to the valve or causing a leakage?

    • Hi Luke, thanks for your email. If it’s been repaired and you’re medically stable, then speak to your doc about first doing light to moderate resistance training and, if no issues, then you might be able to tolerate higher workloads. Ask your doc to do a high intensity treadmill stress test. If you can tolerate the higher workloads at higher blood pressures, then that is also a good indicator. To be clear, I legally cannot tell you yes or no, but I would run my suggestions by your cardiologist and get the green light before you start pushing around the heavy stuff. Kind regards, Bill

  28. ok sir as you said i will be in close to the doctor. and after healing of wounds can she do all of her works ?
    how long she need help to do her activities by own? and is there any chance of getting heart problem again in future? what are the precautions must take?

    • Hi Nagamani
      Once her chest incision site has healed and she has clearance from her doctor, she should be ok to get back to normal. There is always the possibility she could have heart problems again in the future, but she can minimise her risk by taking good care of her blood sugar levels through healthy eating and exercise. If she smokes cigarettes, then she must quit. Overall, a healthy lifestyle is the key to minimising her chances of future heart problems.

  29. Hello doc I am Aman Mishra ,I want to build muscular body in gym. By birth I was suffering from heart disease (T.O.F) and in June 2006 underwent an open heart surgery. I have been playing sports like badminton since then. After 10 years of operation how much weight can I lift in gym?

    • Hi Aman,
      Thank you for your comment. As I’m sure you can appreciate, I do not give specific advice to anyone in the comments section since I am unfamiliar with your entire medical history. Your best bet would be to discuss with your cardiologist if there are any specific limitations that would keep you from lifting heavier weights. I presume your operation was to correct the TOF and, provided it was a success, then that would help support your case in discussing this with your cardiologist. Please appreciate that no one’s condition is identical, so there is no way that I can provide an individualised consultation without knowing your full medical history. Best wishes. Bill

  30. Hello doctor
    My 14 years old son did an open heart surgery for aortic valve replacement four months ago. He gained some weight and he’s not exercising. I’m afraid to let him start exercising because he takes medication ‘ sintrom’ since the valve is metallic. What do you advice? Can he start exercising and what’s the best way to avoid any bleeding?? Thanks in advance..

    • Hello Jihan,
      Thank you for your comment. Sintrom is an anticoagulant so your main concern will be contact sports or activities. By four months post-surgery, he should be well enough to do exercise like walking, jogging, riding a bicycle, or other continuous activities (that do not put him at high risk for impact).

      Does he have a medic bracelet where if he does have an accident, the paramedics or doctors will know he is taking Sintrom? If not, this would be a good idea.

      Without being fully aware of your son’s medical history, I can’t give you any specific recommendations but I would suggest you discuss your concerns with your son’s cardiologist. I’m sure that if there are no other significant medical issues, then his doctors should be ok to clear him for exercise.

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  31. Hi Doc,

    I am 30 and had my aortic root (but not the valve) replaced via surgery 1.5 years ago (I still have mild MR and PR). I’m a very active guy who bodybuilds and does very intense (HIIT) cardio where the hand sensors on the treadmill say my heart rate gets as high as 175bpm (don’t know whether accurate or not). My resting heart rate is 60-65. Am I causing myself any danger by elevating my heart rate that much during cardio?

    • Hi Luke,
      Theoretically, the high blood pressures induced by high intensity exercise “could” add more wear and tear on your ticker, but it is a good sign that you appear to be tolerating these high workloads with no adverse effects. As I say in most of my responses, I cannot give any specific yes/no, right/wrong answers since I’m not familiar with your entire medical history. I would strongly suggest discussing these concerns with your cardiologist who will (obviously) know more about your specific situation. To your advantage, you are still reasonably young and healthy and this will add support to your case. Cheers, Bill

  32. Hi Dr Bill:
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us … much appreciated!

    I had a triple bypass Jan 1996 and have been seeing my cardiologist every 6 months. I am 61-1/2 years old. In August 2015 I’ve had a personal trainer at a local gym (never had one before nor lasted very long at a gym on my own). At the time of surgery, I was 160 pounds. I probably reached 180 pounds after 3 years (going up & down over the years. I was 165 pounds in August 2015 & am currently 155 pounds (I have a “stocky” body type). I started with 2 times per week and in October 2015 increased in to 4 times per week (1 day arms, 1 day legs, 2 days full body cardio). From the start, my trainer noticed good muscle definition when I was pulling the weights. He asked me if I’d every consider bodybuilding. I said no I hadn’t. He asked again 2 weeks ago & I’m more on board with it now, but with some hesitancy. My last radioactive stress test was September 2015 — results normal. I told my cardiologist about my weight training. He advised to go slowly. My next appointment is April 2016. In November 2005, my cardiologist mentioned that the average graft last 10 years, there is no warning of “malfunction” … they just collapse.

    So, my issues is … it will be 20 years next month since my bypass. I have never had any issues If I should consider training for a bodybuilding show, what issues should I be considering? Will I be putting myself in “wreckless risk”? Is there a risk of “blowing apart” my grafts? I would be training under the supervision of a trainer. My trainer is aware of my prior surgery. My trainer has never “pushed” me to the point of concern. What questions should I ask my cardiologist? What “scenario” about bodybuilding training do I present to my cardiologist? etc …

    Thank you in advance for your advise …

    Bill B

    • Hi Bill,
      Thanks for your comment. The bottom line is that bodybuilding will increase your heart rate and blood pressure and this will place stress on your heart and blood vessels. You’ll need to speak to your doc about this and perhaps discuss with him/her any ways to assess your grafts and their current status. With exercise, there are always risks even if you have the greatest trainer on Earth. Best to discuss with your doc that you’d like to do bodybuilding and the intended program regarding frequency, intensity, and duration. Best wishes and good luck with everything!

      Kind regards,

      • Hi Dr Bill:

        Thanks for your quick response … much appreciated. Also, thanks for the guidelines on what to inform my cardiologist about. I’ll consult with my personal trainer to get the info for my cardiologist.

        Thanks for your service, your availability & your advise.

        With much gratitude and appreciation!!!
        … Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!!

        Bill B

  33. Good Evening,

    I had an extended septal myectomy for HOCM on Oct. 20 this past year. I went back to work about 3 weeks ago, but there’s been delays in getting my Cardiac Rehab program started. My initial appt is in just a few days, but they don’t plan to start me until Feb 1. I was never very active prior to surgery, and up until going back to work, I was doing ok walking a mile or so daily on my own…very little shortness of breathe, etc… It did take some time but I saw progress. Since returning to my sedentary office work, I’ve noticed increased feelings of shortness of breath just walking , all day. I’m not completely winded, but I feel sent at ions of not enough oxygen. It’s been especially bad this past week, not to mention I was in a vehicle accident and rear-ended just 7 days ago.

    My question is could feeling worse be due to decreased exercise these last few weeks? I’m so nervous it’s something else. My cardiologist for HCM seems to think it’s more from the accident, but everything looked fine when I was checked out. I’m truly hoping it’s just excercise related and will be better once I begin to get conditioned.

    Thank you kindly.

    • Dear Jessica,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. My apologies for the delay but for some reason your comment ended up in the spam sin bin. However, I have rescued it from purgatory and am now getting back to you.

      Regarding feeling winded, it’s difficult to say exactly what is causing this since there are a few competing possibilities. First, having open heart surgery is rough business no matter how you slice it (bad unintentional pun) and it does take time to heal. Each person is a bit different in that regard in that some people zip through their recovery and for others it takes a bit longer. I don’t know if this applies to you. Second, you also mentioned you had a car accident. This is not beyond the realm of possibility (as your cardiologist suggested). Third, you may find that it’s just a case of regaining your conditioning since you’re just getting back into the groove again. It looks like you’re still about 10 days away from beginning your cardiac rehabilitation program but I think that if you are able to carry on with your walking program in the meantime then you can have more detailed conversations with the rehab staff as they will be more familiar with your specific condition and any other considerations which might impact your ability to exercise.

      Feel free to leave another comment as you go through your rehab program. Many of these comments are helpful to other readers.

      Warm regards,

  34. Hi Doc, I am 58 yrs old and had a very successful OHS with mitral valve repair 2 1/2 month ago. This month I returned to the gym, lifting light weights, walking on the treadmill, etc. I enjoy surfing very much and I am wondering when I can possibly resume surfing, first in small waves and then progressively back to normal (due to the MVP I had before, I didin’t use to surf when the waves were big and now I really enjoy small/middle size waves). BTW, I live in Brazil where the weather and the sea temperature are mild.
    PS: I ve been seaching the web a lot to find pages resuming sport ativities after OHS and it is very difficult to find them. I think your website ie the best I found so far, congratulations

    • Ola Jose, Muito obrigado pela sua mensagem. Sou surfista também e entendo que o surfing é uma paixão! Eu falo português mas acho que seria mais fácil escrever em inglês porque a terminologia medica e um pouco complicado pra mim. The most important thing you can do is speak with your cardiologist and make sure that you are medically-stable and able to resume your normal activities. Provided the surgery was a success and you are healing well, your doc might give you the all clear. You will also need to consider that your sternum might need a bit more time to heal. If you are on blood thinning medications, then you’d have the concern of getting hit by your board or someone else’s board which could plausibly result in internal bleeding. I have had a number of patients and clients who were surfers and once they were healed and given the final clearance from their doctors, they were able to get back on the board. But as I said, I cannot give you my final approval, as I am not familiar with your entire medical history. I do think that since you are at the gym, lifting weights, and walking on the treadmill that this will lend extra support to your request for clearance from your doctor. I hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill (tambem conhecido como Guilherme no Brasil)

  35. Hello dr sukala

    Great article. Was very easy to understand unlike most of the other articles i have read. I am 35 and have had 2 aortic repaires this year at the Ottawa heart institute (july and dec.) second was supposed to be a Ross procedure but a repair was decided on due to sutres had come undone on the first patch. Doing rehab at hospital and gym following same guidelines. Will definatly be sharing this article.
    Thank you

    • G’Day Greg, Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your story. I really appreciate your feedback too. I purposely wrote all my cardiac articles without all the technical jargon so that most people could understand it. I’m always open to ways I can improve them, so feel free to leave any suggestions. Keep up the good work and feel free to report back with any information you think can help other readers.

      Kind regards,

  36. I’m in the medical marketing/communications business and must say that this the best article I’ve read on CABG/surgery recovery. kudos!

  37. I am 56 yrs old I had mitral valve repair 4 weeks ago. I experienced mild annoying pain just left of chest in the area of mitral valve from day one. Doctor said this is normal. I can press on the chest and no pain. After gardening and lite digging I feel pain in same area as described only it goes all the way to my back I’ve tested for four days but pain has not subsided. Can this be serious or am I being overly concerned

    • Hi David,
      It’s not uncommon to have pain in your chest after open heart surgery, but having said that, each person is unique. I can’t speak as to whether or not it’s serious in your case since I’m not familiar with your entire medical history. I would recommend you speak with your doctor about these concerns. Over time these pains “should” go away or diminish, but it is best to run these up the flagpole with your doc. Kind regards, Bill

  38. Hi, I am 39 years old and I had valve sparing open heart surgery 9 months ago after being diagnosed with Marfan syndrome including an aortic root anuryseum only a year earlier.

    The top section of my incision site is still very tender (I have a very slight pidgeon chest)and I still need to use a cushion to roll or get up if laying down. I can only lay on my side for a short period of time and this is only if I am hugging a cushion against my chest. How long will this last before my chest is pain free.

    Also I’m wondering if at any stage will I be able to do any strength training as there a mixed thoughts on weight lifting when you have Marfans syndrome. Thanks

    • Hi Narelle,
      My apologies for the delayed response. I always try to respond in a timely manner, so I don’t know how I didn’t see your comment until now!

      Regarding your pain at the incision site, this is one of those things that, in my experience, tends to vary from person to person and can depend on an individual’s pain threshold as well as the surgery itself. It’s difficult to say exactly how long your pain will last, but I would suggest speaking to your surgeon about this for more specific information relevant to your operation. I have generally found that most post-open heart surgery patients feel reasonably well by around 6 months but may have some lingering discomfort for longer duration in some cases.

      Regarding strength training with Marfans syndrome, most of what you’ll read will recommend that you can’t engage in high intensity exercise, but I think ultimately, it would depend on your individual condition as well as working closely with your cardiologist and/or cardiac rehabilitation team to find what weights are most appropriate for you (particularly the effect it has on your individual blood pressure response).

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  39. Hi Doc

    Good article thank you. I am physical therapist. I would like to know if you know of patients who did ultra marathons like the comrades after bypass surgery. I know each case differs and important to consult their doctor, but is it really possible and ok for the heart?

    • Hi Ancois,
      I do not know of any patients who’ve done ultra endurance marathons (like multiple day marathons of 100+ km), but I am familiar with people running normal marathons after surgery. I think provided a patient is medically stable and there are no other significant contraindications (and the cardiologist has given his/her approval), then it could be done, but as you rightfully pointed out, each case is different and will depend on the individual and their particular condition.

  40. Hi doc. There are some great tips there. this article is very helpful for me for my father. he got bypass surgery last month. So much thank you for coming up with this. GRATEFUL !!

  41. Hi. I’m 14 years of age and in April, I had an open heart surgery for mitral valve repair. The surgery was amazing, thank god for that :). However, I’ve got a few questions. I’ve been really down and depressed since my operation. I’ve had nightmares, I also had 2 of the same nightmares. And I don’t feel happy at all, always stressed or down. In my normal life I was much happier than I am now. My scar makes me unhappy and self conscious with myself. Is this normal after open heart surgery? I’ve asked on other websites but no answers :(. I just need help on my emotional issues

    • Hi Sev,
      I’m very sorry to hear you’re having a difficult time after your surgery. While I can’t provide you with any specific medical advice, I can offer some suggestions and reassurances which might put your mind at ease. Overall, rest assured, much of what you’re describing is common after open heart surgery.

      Here are some key things to bear in mind:

      1) Depression after open heart surgery is something I’ve seen a lot of in my experience working in cardiac rehab. Remember that the surgery itself is a trauma on your body and after the surgery is done, it takes your body some time to heal and get back to normal. I have also been told by surgeon friends of mine that when they put you on the heart and lung bypass machine during surgery that it can sometimes have the effect of making things go a little haywire in the brain for a while after the surgery. I have heard from numerous patients stating the same as you, that they had very bad nightmares after their heart surgery.

      I would strongly recommend that you visit a health counsellor or psychologist if you are feeling very tormented by all this. PLEASE KNOW THIS: Reaching out and asking for help is a SIGN OF STRENGTH, NOT WEAKNESS. As I stated above, it’s not uncharted territory to feel down and blue after heart surgery, but rest assured you are NOT alone. Remember to give yourself permission to be human during this journey and know that it’s not always going to be this way. You don’t necessarily have to APPROVE of how you’re feeling, but it can be helpful to just ACCEPT what is for the right here and now. As I said above, a smart option is to ask for help and feel good about that decision. You’re not crazy. You’re just human and you’ve been through a lot. Surgery is a rough ride for anyone, let alone still being a young 14 years old.

      2) I’ll be honest. Surgery sucks and it can be a rough ride afterwards. No doubt about it. But when it comes to a decision like that, it’s a case of “if I don’t get the surgery, I might die. If I do get the surgery, then there might be after effects from it.” So obviously most people choose life. But remember that in your case, you’re only a few months post-surgery, so your body still has some healing on the inside to do and this can take some time. Many of my patients I’ve worked with did not feel “back to normal” for up to a year. Especially the sternal incision site.

      3) Regarding your scar, you will probably find it will remain a bit red and prominent in these early healing stages, but over time it will fade. My best friend in the world had open heart surgery when he was younger than you. Yes, he has a scar, BUT the good news is that the colouring of the scar has long since faded and now with his chest hair, it’s barely noticeable. I know that’s not helping you right here and now, but it’s going to be a patience thing in your case. If it is still an issue for you in the next year or two, perhaps discuss it with your doctor and ask if there are any cosmetic procedures that might help minimise the scar’s appearance.

      Ok Sev, I hope this all helps you a bit and puts you on a better mindset. Feel free to check in and let me know how you’re doing in your recovery. Your comments can help others who are experiencing the same effects after their heart surgery.

      Best wishes,

  42. Thank you so much for your advice!!:) it has helped me and I will try to get help, hopefully and meanwhile focus on myself to help me overcome this depression. I have another question, it might not be relevant or asked much but I’ve been on some other websites and found nothing. Before my operation in April, I had mitral valve prolapse and I went to a theme park with lots of fast roller coasters and I was completely fine going on them:) I was wondering after my open heart surgery and getting mitral valve repair, will I still be able to go on fast roller coasters? Such as ones in theme parks? I would ask my doctor but I am unfortunately not seeing them till October. Thank you 🙂 sev

    • G’day Sev, thanks for your feedback. I’m glad you found that helpful. Regarding going on theme park rides, remember that I cannot give you any medical advice since I am an exercise physiologist. You might be able to call your cardiologist’s office and ask to speak to one of the practice nurses. One thing to consider though is that if you’ve had the operation and have healed well with no complications, then you should be in a better position to tolerate the rides. But without my knowing every detail of your medical history, this is why I defer to your doc or the practice nurse who IS familiar with your situation. Feel free to check in on my site any time and leave a comment. This helps other people who might also have similar questions or concerns. Thanks again Sev and best wishes. Cheers, Bill

  43. Greetings. I’m 69, and had 5x bypass on June 14. Resumed daily 30 minute rowing ergometer sessions after 3 weeks. Prior to operation was doing 2.04 splits. Restarted at 3.00 split and over 3 weeks this has reduced to 2.30, all at about 24 spm, with 2 breaths per stroke. Heart rate less than 95 always. Working to a slight sweat. No pain. In order to reduce pec muscle work, and pull on the sternum, all erg work is done with relaxed arms, the stroke finishing on the knees. Is this correct?
    Resumed working after 3 weeks, welding and repairing containers. Fun figuring how to lift etc without working the pecs. Use straight arm lifts or pulls(like the erg). No sideways movements, and no pushes.
    All attempts to sleep on sides or tum have been worrying, especially turning while asleep. So back it is, with pillow over the head.
    Being fit to start with really helped. The triangle of life! Exercise, Diet, Lifestyle.

    • Hi Graham,
      Thanks for leaving a comment. Bear in mind that you are still pretty fresh out of your surgery so, as you rightfully pointed out, you do need to be careful about your sternum. And yes, you are definitely correct that being fit before your surgery certainly helped you along for a speedy recovery.

      Regarding your questions, provided that you have medical clearance to exercise from your cardiologist and you are tolerating the current workloads without any signs, symptoms, pain, discomfort, shortness of breath etc, then that is a good sign. Recovery time (on average) after CABG surgery is around 6 to 8 weeks for most people. So if you had surgery on June 14th, then that puts you about 6 weeks post-op. Your bigger concern at this stage would be (as you pointed out) your sternum and not doing any heavy loading on it for a while. Based on what you’ve written, you seem like a pretty self-sufficient and ambitious guy, so that means you’ll have to work extra hard on just being patient (and nice to yourself) whilst your sternum recovers. In the next month or two you should start to feel a bit more back to normal, especially at the 6 month + mark. Keep up the good work and feel free to stop by and leave another comment (if necessary) so that others might learn from your experience. Cheers, Bill

  44. Hello there, I had Davinci (minimally invasive) Mitral Valve Repair June 17th, 2016 at Cedars. I also have a ring. My heart was otherwise healthy and I exercised regularly before the surgery (hiking, karate, running, swimming, etc.) I’m in cardiac rehab and it’s a conservative program. I currently do an hour of low-medium intensity exercise a day (40 beats above resting).
    But I was invited to Magic Mountain and I wonder what your thoughts are about thrill rides (not jerky, but a few loops and fast but smooth drops) 10 weeks post op. There will be walking to each ride then standing in line but I can leave when I get tired – the issue I’m worried about is the “thrill” part when I go on the ride and it’s effect on my healing heart. I go every year and I hate to miss it. Thank you for any insight!

    • Hi Melinda,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. First, I am very happy that you are participating in a cardiac rehab program. This always a step in the right direction and will give you more confidence in getting your life back on track. Regarding amusement rides after heart surgery, my answer to this is always the same: you’ll need to discuss this with your doctor. Because everyone’s situation is different (not to mention I’m not a cardiologist), it’s impossible to give a blanket thumbs up or thumbs down. BUT, having said that, I think you’ll be able to plead your case to your doc provided you are medically stable (HR and BP normal, no signs or symptoms etc), your procedure was a smashing success (no complications), and you’re not taking any medications which might be inappropriate for going on amusement rides. The other thing that bodes well for pleading your case is that you will be 10 weeks post-op by the time you go. And the fact that you had a minimally invasive procedure is a good thing too. Bottom line: I personally cannot give you a yes or no, but I think if you discuss the above points with your cardiologist (or practice nurse) then you’ll get a better idea if it’s a safe decision. Hope this helps. Cheers, Bill

      • Thank you for your reply! My appointment with my cardiologist was after the Magic Mountain trip but I called his office and they said that the danger was not in an increased heart rate, but in the heart banging around against the chest wall. His advice – no acceleration, no deceleration, no abrupt stops – wait until next year! I took his advice.

        Thank you!!

  45. Excellent article. And thanks for the note on chest numbness. I’m 16 weeks post op and thought something was wrong with me. I’ve been making steady progress and doing well. I’m walking at a 6.2 kph pace now for 4 Km and just started adding a bit of running to that. Cardiac rehab definitely got me off to a good start.

    • Hi James,
      Glad you found the article helpful. It’s quite common for people to think they should snap right back to normal the day after the operation, but I like to refer to open heart surgery as a controlled train wreck. It is a trauma to the body and this requires some significant healing time. Everyone is different and there are certainly times where it’s warranted to go back to the surgeon and ask “why the heck am I still sore!” but for the most part within 6 months most people feel quite well and by a year pretty much back to normal. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Bill

  46. I am 70 years old and had 4 pass heart surgery on august 14,2016. My rehab states that day. I had my

    first post op visit. The doctor says wait 6 weeks for sex. However I have ED and stimulate each other with

    our hands as I cant penetrate. If we do this manually without being on top of each other could we have

    sex before the 6 weeks.

    • Hi Donald,
      Thanks for your comment. I can’t give you any information or advice that takes precedence over your doctor and/or medical management team. In my work in cardiac rehab, I let people know that once you can comfortably climb two or three flights of stairs without any undue fatigue or shortness of breath, then that is a general guideline that it’s ok to resume having sex again. I think it’s important to note that since I have no idea what your entire medical history is, I can’t give any specific advice. I would speak to your doctor about what I’ve mentioned above and see if that is appropriate for you. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  47. My grandpa is about to have open heart surgery and I wanted to research it to make sure I know how to best help him post-op. I didn’t realize that the recovery can take up to 6 or 8 weeks. It’s also good to know that he can still go on our weekly walks around the neighborhood and that it can help him avoid muscle atrophy. I will make sure he takes it easy until he is completely recovered!

  48. My mum of 82 had her aorta valve replacement op a month ago and feels tired and no energy she says will she ever feel better also feels sickish sometimes is this normal

    • Hi Margaret,
      It’s not uncommon to feel pretty exhausted after aortic valve replacement. I have found in my work in cardiac rehab that many people feel pretty darn tired for at least a good six to eight weeks after open heart surgery.

      Whilst I can’t give you any specific advice since I’m not familiar with your mum’s entire medical history, I would strongly suggest speaking to her surgeon, cardiologist, or a practice nurse that works with the docs. Ask them about her medications too. If she is prescribed a few medications and one of them is making her lethargic, then it may be worth asking if another med can be substituted.

      Kind regards,

  49. Hello,

    I undergone mitral valve repair last December 9, 2016. It is now almost 4 months, but my heartrate still high. Sometime it reaches 116 per minute. I am taking meds for that but i dont know why its still the same. My doctor told me just to take meds. Im taking CARVEDILOL. Can you give me any advice on what should i do ? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Fritz,
      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m not able to give any specific medical advice online since 1) I’m an exercise physiologist and 2) I’m not familiar with your entire medical history. Some people have a naturally high resting heart rate but 116 is a bit higher than usual. I’ve seen heart rates that high in heart transplant patients, but I wouldn’t expect to see it in the case of a mitral valve repair. I would suggest speaking to your cardiologist again and express your concerns. Your doc might wish to change your meds or adjust the dosage of the carvedilol. Sorry I can’t be of further help. Kind regards, Bill

  50. Hi Dr Bill, Great read thank you… I’m 44 years of age and have always kept fit, A few months ago I started to become symptomatic with my bi-cuspid aortic valve slowly closing up.. I’ve just been advised that’s it ls time to have the valve replaced within the next couple of months, Most likely it will be mechanical.. The Dr at the hospital’s valve clinic seems very positive about this operation changing my life which is great. How long does it normally take for the sternum to heal before I can return to weight bearing activities on my chest such as bench pressing? Also what about bush walking with climbing over mountains?? Thank you in advance. Darren

    • Hi Darren,
      Thanks for your comment. The short answer is always the same for these types of questions: it depends on the individual and also on your doc’s recommendations. BUT, I can tell you from my experience with having worked with countless open heart surgery patients, the sternum can take around 6 to 12 months to really feel strong again. However, if you’re participating in a cardiac rehab program, I would bring up your concerns to the team and have them help you work within your pain-free range of motion. Provided there are no underlying reasons for which you should not be lifting weights, you could probably start light and test the waters with a bit of try-and-see to figure out what your threshold is (i.e., what weight can you lift without it causing you any pain). A little discomfort is not unheard of, but you should not be lifting early on to the extent you’re feeling like there’s an ice pick in your chest. Trial and error is the key, and working within the recommendations of your surgeon, cardiologist, and cardiac rehab team.

      As for bush walking and climbing mountains, most people (particularly young guys like you) tend to be feeling much better after 2 to 3 months. As above, provided there are no complications or contraindications to bush walking, you should be able to get back into it without any issues. You should be able to participate in a cardiac rehab program within a few weeks once they are confident your incision site is well healed and does not pose a risk of infection (i.e., gyms are filthy). They can coach you along on what the signs of sternal skin infection are (i.e., redness, swelling, pus, etc).

      Bottom line: being a young guy and, I’d imagine, fit and healthy in every way, you should fare well through the recovery period. Cardiac rehab will give you a good boost so you can work out safely and confidently. Then after you get the all-clear from the doc and cardiac rehab team, you should be able to get back into weight lifting (work up to higher weights slowly) and bush walking/mountain climbing.

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  51. Thank you Dr Bill, that’s great. I’ve got full confidence in the cardiology team at the Austin hospital here in Melbourne.. Like I mentioned in my previous post, surgery shouldn’t be far away now.. At moments like this, you guys in medicine are at the top of my appreciation list.. In years gone by, or less well developed countries I would probably be dead at age 45. Beside being a little worried about the operation, Im fairly positive about this (new lease on life) 😊 I’ll keep u posted on my progress.
    Cheers Darren

    • Hi Darren,
      You sound like you have a good attitude going into it and, whilst surgery can be hard in the recovery phase, the people I see going through it with a good attitude tend to fare MUCH better. I’m sure they’ll take good care of you down there. Rest assured that once you get through the initial post-surgery phase, then you’ll be back in your groove in no time. I’ve worked with a lot of people after valve surgery. The good thing is that you’re not having surgery for multi-vessel blockages. If I was going to have open heart surgery, I’d prefer it to be for a valve any day of the week rather than for cardiovascular disease.

      Also, another thing. Talk to your doc about blood thinners after the surgery and what that’ll mean for you in terms of things like playing sports. They’ll probably say no AFL or rugby! Contact sports can be an issue with the blood thinners (i.e., internal bleeding risk). But anyway, if you work closely with your medical management team, I’m sure you’ll be fine.

      Keep up the positive vibes and feel free to stop back and leave another comment to let us know how you go.

  52. My name is Len. I got 5 bypasses and 2 pigs almost 3 weeks ago. I was out or in a coma for 8 days. Today I work out and enjoy life. Today I feel outstanding today i run a 8.5 min mile and have no pain. I lift no more than 15 lbs each hand. The pills given to me and have no effect on my blood I have been 1.57 and no matter how much thinner I take it stays the same. I get my blood work done at the hospital that did the surgery for accuracy.
    I jail breaked myself out of rehab after 2 days because it was doing nothing for me my 4 sons took me to the basement and we worked out day and night till I was strong from the waist down. When I came out of the hospital I couldn’t find my mouth with a spoon.
    If you want to be strong and take this serious you got to be all you can be.
    I take my BP 4 times a day it’s 120/80 all the time.
    I drink 3 martinis a week. Sex every other night and it is outstanding and wow it acts like it did when I was 20.
    Another words replacing your engine is not so bad just tune it correctly watch all your pressures be all you can be and you will recover quickly and trust me your wife will enjoy the benifits of that brand new engine.
    If I was in rehab I still will be there today the meds and the work out is not personal enough to get you strong. Also watch your meds if you go to rehab they have a habit of changing what the doctor set up you don’t want to take generic blood thinners. Do not take a generic thinner take Coumadin if prescribed
    Don’t lie to your doctor be upfront. i done rehab for two days to learn what to do and I did it at home with my sons.
    Work hard and you will be impressed with the new lease on life you got. Also be more responsible love your family more and have a greater admiration for life.
    If done correctly and you work out correctly take only the correct meds your body wants you will returnbetter than before as I feel and I am.

    Good luck and enjoy your new engine

  53. Dear Dr. Bill, I am Suresh, a 48 year old dentist /male. I underwent bypass surgery on 2017,May 25th…. 3 grafts using only internal mammary arteries. … June 20 was my first review. Surgeon said all healing normally and I could go for half an hour to one hour slow walks. Yesterday after my fifty minutes walk I felt slightly light headed… My complaint is that I started feeling palpitations mild from yesterday morning… Even today it is continuing… Pulse between 80 and 90 blood pressure 120/80….is this normal? Kindly advise

    • Hi Suresh,
      First off, I would advise you to speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing any post-surgery signs or symptoms (such as palpitations and/or lightheadedness). There are a number of possible reasons for this but only your doctor can advise you on specifics related to your individual medical history.

      A pulse between 80 and 90 at rest would be considered on the high end of normal, but this depends on if your resting heart rate was previously much lower (i.e., 50 to 60 beats per minute). If it has gone up 30 or 40 beats per minute with no obvious explanation, then this is something that you will definitely need to bring to your doctor’s attention.

      A resting blood pressure of 120/80 is considered normal, but I’d be curious to know if this was always your average blood pressure or if it is higher or lower than it previously was. If your blood pressure (like your heart rate) has changed significantly compared to what it previously was, then this is something worth bringing to your doctor’s attention.

      Also consider that medications prescribed after surgery can sometimes have a variety of effects on your heart rate and blood pressure. But as I said above, it’s important to work closely with your doctor to make sure that everything is still within normal limits and healing well.

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  54. Hi Dr Bill, Just a follow up post from previous.
    I’m almost 4 weeks post op from aortic valve replacement surgery..
    What an adventure!! The team at the Austin were super professional, Waking up after surgery in ICU wasn’t exactly like sunbaking on a beach in tropical Nth Qld, but the pain was managed accordingly…
    The staff and systems we have in this country are beyond my comprehension.
    Besides the usually niggles, occasional weird feelings in my chest, general sorness from my sternum (which is getting better) I’m cruising along ok, The lack of training and non ability to drive for another 2 weeks is a little frustrating, but I know this won’t be forever.. I’m even getting used to the wrist watch in my chest (On-x mechanical valve)
    So, not too many complaints as I’m just trying to give my body permission to heal properly.

    Cheers Dr Bill

    • Hi Darren,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to come back and leave a comment on your experience. I hope others read your words and feel a bit of reassurance with their own surgeries. No doubt, it can be scary stuff, but good to see that it’s not all doom and gloom.

      You make a VERY good point: give yourself permission to heal properly. I see a lot of people who want to go out and run a marathon as soon as they get out of the hospital. In many cases, I see people having problems with complications when they DON’T give themselves permission to just be human and heal properly.

      Wishing you all the best in your recovery!


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