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October 23, 2013

Consumer Reports: Surgery savvy — lower your risk

(Continued)

Keep moving. Boosting your activity level, if only for a week or so before surgery, can help you get out of bed and walk around sooner afterward. That can prevent such complications as blood clots and pneumonia. In a 2013 review in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, people who were in an exercise program before heart surgery had shorter hospital stays.

Strengthen your lungs. People who are recovering from surgery are often told to take long, deep breaths using a device called an incentive spirometer. That helps prevent pneumonia and deliver more oxygen to the surgical site to speed the repair of wounds. But doing those exercises before you get to the hospital also leads to shorter hospital stays, according to a 2011 review in Clinical Rehabilitation. So ask for a spirometer before your operation and practice using it.

Relax. Psychological stress triggers chemical changes in the body that impair the immune system. So it's no surprise that anxiety has been linked to slower healing, more pain and longer hospital stays. If you have concerns about your operation, talk about them with your doctor. Other stress-busters include deep breathing, meditation, yoga, exercise and listening to music.

Control diabetes. Blood sugar levels can spike after surgery, which can compromise your immune system and multiply the risk of pneumonia and wound or bloodstream infections. Talk with the doctor who treats your diabetes about things you should do before and after your surgery to control your blood sugar level.

Stop smoking. Smokers are more likely to need a ventilator to help them breathe after surgery. They also heal more slowly and are prone to infection. Quitting before surgery can reduce those complications. It's best to kick the habit well before surgery, but it helps to stop even temporarily.

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