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Activity

Stop any activity immediately if you feel short of breath, notice irregular heart beats, feel faint or dizzy, or you have chest pain. Rest until the symptoms subside. If they do not subside within 20 minutes, notify your doctor.

Showers:

You can take showers after your pacing wires and staples are out. Avoid soaking in baths until your incisions are healed. Avoid extremely hot water.

Dress:

Wear comforatble, loose fitting clothes that do not put undue pressure on your incisions.

Rest:

You need a balance of rest and exercise for your recovery. Plan to rest between activities and to take short naps as necessary. Resting also includes sitting quietly for 20-30 minutes. Rest 30 minutes after meals before exercising.

Walking:

This is one of the best forms of exercise because it increases circulation throughout the body and to the heart muscle. It is important to increase your activity gradually. Walk at your own pace. Stop and rest if you get tired. Each person progresses at a different rate after heart surgery. Physical therapists will provide you with an individual plan for exercise before your discharge. It is important to pace your activities throughout the day. Do not try to do too many things at one time. In poor weather lower than 40 degrees or above 80 degrees, you can walk in indoor shopping malls. In cold weather, wear a scarf or mask around your mouth and nose.

Stairs:

Unless your doctor tells you differently, you can climb stairs. Take them at a slow pace. Stop and rest if you tire. When using the handrail, do not pull yourself up with your arms. Use your legs.

Sexual:

You can resume sexual relations when you feel comfortable. For many people this is about 2 to 4 weeks after discharge, unless instructed differently by your doctor. Please ask your nurse for more detailed information, if needed.

Driving:

You can ride as a passenger in a car at any time. Avoid driving, outdoor bicycling, or motorcycle riding for 6 weeks after surgery. This time period is recommended to allow your breastbone (sternum) to heal. Also your movements might be limited and slow before the 6 weeks are up. When traveling, be sure to get out of the car every 2 hours and walk around for a few minutes.

Lifting:

You should not put too much strain on your sternum while it is healing. Avoid lifting, pushing, or pulling anything heavier than 10 pounds for 6 weeks after surgery. This includes carrying children, groceries, suitcases, mowing the grass, vacuuming, and moving furniture. Don't hold your breath during any activity, especially when lifting anything or when using the rest room.

Work:

Check with your surgeon before returning to work, but most patients will begin to feel like returning to light work 6 to 12 weeks after surgery.

When To Resume Usual Activities:

Weeks 1-6

After 6 Weeks

After 3 Months

Light housekeeping:
  • Dusting
  • Setting the table
  • Wash dishes
  • Folding clothes
Continue activities of weeks 1 - 6 (but you may be able to tolerate more). Continue activities of weeks 1 to 3 months (but you may be able to tolerate more)
Light gardening:
  • Potting plants
  • Trimming flowers
Return to work part-time (If your job does not require lifting, and returning is approved by your surgeon). Heavy housework:
  • Scrubbing floors
  • Needlework
    Reading
    Cooking meals
    Climbing stairs
    Small mechanical jobs
    Heavy housework:
    • Vacuuming
    • Sweeping
    • Laundry
    Heavy gardening:
    • Shoveling snow
    • Digging
    Shopping
    Restaurants
    Movies
    Church
    Attend sports events
    Heavy gardening:
    • Mowing lawn
    • Raking leaves
    Football/Soccer
    Softball/Baseball
    Tennis
    Bowling
    Hunting
    Jogging
    Bicycling
    Passenger in car
    Walking
    Treadmill
    Stationary bike
    Shampooing hair
    Playing cards/games
    Ironing
    Business or recreational travel
    Fishing
    Light aerobics (no weights)
    Walking dog on leash
    Driving a car or small truck
    Boating
    Golfing
    Weight lifting
    Motorcycle riding
    Push-ups
    Swimming
    Water skiing
    Skydiving

    *Keep in mind that all of these activities need to be in the 10 pound weight limit or less until 6 weeks after surgery.

    **Visitors: Limit your visitors for the first couple of weeks. If you get tired, excuse yourself and lie down. Your visitors will understand.

    Exercise Guidelines:

    1. Stop any exercise if you experience hortness of breath, dizziness, leg cramping, unusual fatigue, and/or chest pain (angina). Notify your doctor if these symptoms persist.
    2. If your post-exercise pulse rate is more than 30 beats faster than your resting pulse rate, or if your rate of perceived exertion is over 13, you have exercised too hard. In order to correct these conditions you will need to modify your next exercise session.

    Pulse Assessment:

    Monitoring your pulse rate helps you to keep your activities within a safe heart rate range. To take your pulse, place your index and middle fingers on the lower part of your thumb, then slide your fingers down to your wrist. If you do not feel the pulse, try moving your fingers over a little but in the same area. Once you can feel the pulse, count it for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. This will tell you how many times your heart is beating in one minute. Your doctor of their nurse can help you to find your pulse in your wrist if you have difficulty.

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