Preparing for Surgery: Why You Need to Train If Surgery Is on Your Calendar by Joy Stephenson-Laws JD

Preparing for Surgery: Why You Need to Train If Surgery Is on Your Calendar

We train for so many things in life. As kids, we were potty trained. We also had training wheels put on our bikes. Now, we may train at the gym or undergo training for a new job. Some expectant mothers train for childbirth by taking Lamaze classes. We do all of this training in order to prepare and achieve the best outcome possible.

So it makes perfect sense that if you have to undergo surgery, you would train for it, right?

Well, it turns out that there is credible support to suggest that we should indeed be training for our surgeries. A study, backed by the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, found evidence which suggested that older adults who train for major surgeries by exercising, eating healthily and practicing techniques to reduce stress before going under the knife “... have shorter hospital stays and are more likely to return to their own homes afterward rather than another facility, compared with similar patients who do not participate in preoperative rehabilitation ...” 

We tend to think of rehabilitation as something that we do after an event, but this study shows how important it is to do beforehand. In the case before surgery, it is called “prehabilitation” or “prehab.” "We believe every patient [so not just older patients] should train for a major operation. It's like running a 5K race: You have to prepare," said one of the doctors and coauthors of the study. Undergoing a major operation is stressful to the body. It is traumatic, and there are risks of having complications (especially in older adults) after surgery such as pneumonia, urinary retention and surgical site infections.

According to yet another study, surgical site infections affect as many as 300,000 patients per year in the U.S.

How can you be proactive and train for surgery? First, seek the advice of a competent health-care professional. He or she can construct a safe plan that is catered to you. Some of the suggestions for training will likely include:

  • Before surgery, you want to make sure that your immune system is in top shape. Your white blood cells play a critical role in fighting infections that may cause complications after having surgery. Think of your white blood cells as being “immune system cells.” You want to have the optimal number of these cells to ensure you are in the best position to combat viruses and infections. A great way to be proactive about making sure you have plenty of these white blood cells is by making sure you get an adequate intake of nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamins B9, B12, C and E.
  • Practicing stress relieving activities such as meditation and yoga. Surgery is stressful. The less stressed you are before an operation, the better the outcome may be. Stress also wreak havoc on our immune system.
  • Making sure you get plenty of good-quality sleep. Good sleep helps combat stress and strengthens the immune system.
  • Getting adequate exercise. Talk to your doctor about which exercises are best for you. For some it may be walking, and for others it may be strength training with weights.
  • Quit smoking, if you do. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

Enjoy your healthy life!

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Elisa Schmitz
Thank you for introducing this very important concept to our community, Joy Stephenson-Laws JD ! It makes perfect sense and is a very helpful suggestion.
Sleep, healthy eating, exercise … always good and especially before medical procedures.

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