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Do I need a special diet after heart surgery?

Patients are encouraged to limit their intake of sodium, carbohydrates, and fats after open heart surgery.

Depending on your condition, your physician or dietician may suggest a special diet, advise you to avoid excessive calorie intake or restrict your intake of fluids. Those with diabetes must monitor their diet and sugar levels carefully.

If your appetite is poor, try to eat small but frequent meals until you regain your appetite. Well-balanced meals that are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and high in fiber are important to your continued health.

Focusing on heart-healthy foods along with appropriate exercise will accelerate your recovery and improve your overall well-being.

Heart surgery on its own is a life-changing event. In this video, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Emile Bacha discusses whether dietary changes are necessary after having heart surgery.

You may notice after heart surgery that you have lost your appetite for food or just feel too tired to eat. This is very common, but you need nourishment to enable your body to heal and get stronger. Here are some nutrition guidelines:

  • Eat a balanced diet and drink adequate fluids to encourage a return to your normal bowel pattern. Do not take laxatives daily unless specifically instructed by your doctor. You may try prune juice or other natural methods.
  • If your physician recommends a diet based on your individual needs, you will receive written information to help you follow the plan at home.
  • Eat a variety of foods. You may want to eat many small meals throughout the day instead of three larger meals.
  • Avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Eat foods with adequate starch and fiber.
  • Avoid too much sodium/salt.
  • Avoid too much sugar.
  • Maintain an ideal weight—consult your physician.

After heart surgery, a low-cholesterol diet is important once you've healed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.