Tips For Safe Exercise After Open Heart Surgery

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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).

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, SkinnyMint Teatox, and Fit Tea) 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. 

Find out 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.

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226 thoughts on “Tips For Safe Exercise After Open Heart Surgery”

  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

    1. 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. Hi doc, very nice article. I had a triple bypass surgery in 2015 at present I walk 4 miles 4 days a week. I want to know if I can go back to weight lifting.

      1. Hi Trevor, I’d recommend having a talk with your cardiologist and getting approval before you start lifting weights again. Your doc will be most familiar with your entire medical history and can discuss the pros and cons with you. If you have a hospital-based cardiac rehab program, you might want to work with them to get specific exercise advice. Finally, you might also want to talk to your doc about doing a treadmill test on you and, if you’re able to tolerate the higher workloads without any signs, symptoms, or other abnormalities on your ECG, then you might get clearance to lift weights again.

        Hope this helps.

        Kind regards,

  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?



    1. 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

    1. 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. Alexander Avinante

    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.

    1. 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!

    1. 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?

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. Hi Ange, thank you very much for visiting my site and leaving a comment. It’s great to hear your feeling well and getting back into the groove. Keep up the good work!

  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!

    1. 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

    1. 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?

    1. Dr Bill Sukala

      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!

    2. Dr Bill Sukala

      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

    1. Dr Bill Sukala

      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

      1. 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…

      2. 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.

        1. 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.


    1. Dr Bill Sukala

      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.

    1. Dr Bill Sukala

      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.

    1. Dr Bill Sukala

      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

    1. 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

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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

        2. I had coronary bypass surgery 5 weeks ago. It is a very slow healing process. I have had a cough also. I started having swelling in legs and ankles. Went back to my surgeon who sent me for chest X-ray immediately. It showed a large build up of fluid around the lungs. Since I had felt better early into recovery, I knew something was wrong. Surgeon scheduled procedure to remove fluid the next day. Keep an eye on any edema and your weight. I was gaining more weight than was normal. I took a diuretic after being discharged but at my follow up visit wth surgeon, he said I could stop taking it. The edema hadn’t started yet. That was 3weeks post op. Best of luck.

  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

    1. 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

      1. 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

        1. 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?

    1. 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


    1. 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,

      1. 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?

        1. 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?

    1. 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?

    1. 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?

    1. 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..

    1. 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?

    1. 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

    1. 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,

      1. 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.

    1. 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

    1. 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)

      1. Muito obrigado Guilherme. Estou muito surpreso que voce fale portugues !! Vou seguir seus conselhos. Abracos, Jose

  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

    1. 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. Prem Karunakaran

    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

    1. 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

    1. 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?

    1. 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

    1. 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

    1. 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. Graham Cawood

    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.

    1. 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!

    1. 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

      1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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

    1. 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. Fritz esperancilla


    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.

    1. 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

    1. 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. 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

    1. 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

    1. 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!

  55. Sir I have undergone open heart surgery in 2010 because I had a hole in my heart and after the surgery I am fine,they(doctors) have also set up a metal valve in my heart due to some reason while doing surgery.But sir I wanted to ask you that can I play cricket cuz I like to play and even I want to have cricket as my career,but my mother always refuses me to play saying that you have gone open heart surgery.And sir I think you can better answer whether I can play or not because she has also not asked any doctor about that .Please help me sir.

    1. Hi Vaibhav,
      Thanks for your comment. The only person who can give you clearance to play cricket is your cardiologist or surgeon who performed your surgery. Either one of them will be most familiar with your specific condition and can give you the best answer. If you are medically stable and you do not have any specific medical reasons why you cannot participate in exercise, then your doctor may give you clearance. Also, your surgery was back in 2010, so that was 7 years ago. If you have not had any complications associate with your heart since then, that is also a good sign. But the bottom line is that you should speak with your doctor to get clearance to play cricket. Your mother may have her concerns, but she is not a doctor and is not medically qualified to tell you that you should not play cricket. Kind regards, Bill

  56. Dear Dr Sukala,
    Thanks for your informative site and comments. My son is 14 years old and had a successful Ross Procedure at 1 year old. He needs his substitute pulmonary valve replaced before he is 16 (i.e. adulthood). My question is, all things being equal, can he return to schools rugby? I have come across a number of NFL, ice hockey and one rugby example of players who have returned following open heart work. He will have a bio prosthetic valve probably, so no blood thinners. What’s your view?
    We also surf A LOT, but it would be a bit chilly for the Aussies.
    Many thanks
    Marty McNeely
    N Ireland

    1. Hi Marty,
      Thanks for your comment. I think the best answer to your question is that it’s always a case by case basis and will need to be approved by the cardiologist/surgeon. The one thing that bodes well for your son is that he will likely not need blood thinners. Usually one of the main contraindications for contact sports is strong blood thinners like warfarin. As long as your son is well-managed and there are no glaring reasons which would preclude him from playing rugby, then he is more likely to get the green light from his docs. Being from the US (originally) I have had cardiac rehab patients who were able to go back to contact sports, but as I said above, it was a case by case basis taking into consideration the person’s entire medical history and the potential health risk of playing a contact sport again. As for surfing cold water, yep, most Aussies would have a hard time with northern Irish waters! I grew up surfing the north east of the US in winter with water temps around 1 or 2 degrees! Fun!!! Feel free to stop back and leave another comment to let us know how your son went with his procedure. Cheers, Bill

      1. Thanks Bill, not sure if first reply got through, sending a second. Really appreciate your time and info. I sense that because the journey from open heart valve replacement to a rugby pitch has not been made much, people are cautious. Approaching the operation in the next two years, we hope he can still do light cardio and strength work in the gym, so his surgery and rehab goes better. If you ever want to surf the North Irish coast – shoot an email! Bless you, Marty

        1. Cheers Marty,
          I think your son will be ok, provided you take the necessary precautions. And careful what you wish for, I might just turn up on your doorstep for a surf! Ireland is my ancestral homeland after all! Cheers, Bill

  57. Thanks Bill so much. Very helpful. My son’s own doctor at home here is cautious, whereas the surgeon in England is more optimistic. I think as you say it depends on the patient. My son is quite a strong unit at the moment and plays and trains hard for the school. He is mild to moderate pul valve leakage. But obviously as puberty really kicks in, that valve will degrade in function and he will get tired. Even if he can’t play coming up to the operation in 18-24 months, he could probably still work on the strength and conditioning in the gym. That way, he faces the op in stronger form and hopefully faster rehab. But – we’re just thankful for life regardless. What a blessing. If you want to surf over here at all, send me a line!

  58. Hi there,

    I understand you cant hand out any direct recommendations but I was hoping for a second opinion.

    I am 26, 3.5 weeks ago I had OHS to close multiple ASDs, all went according to plan bar a bit of difficulty closing me up. I am incredibly imobile in my upper body but I am assuming that will come with time. I’ve been walking anywhere between 3-5miles at 4-5km/h easily for the last few weeks, did 20mins stationary bike today averaging about 120HR and 20min walking and some squats and lunges and felt fine, tired but fine.

    I’m in the Royal Marines (UK) and came into this pretty fit, keeping my job is dependent on me passing a series of physical tests next year Feb which are pretty arduous and to be honest require me to get running as soon as is considered safe.

    So my issue is, my current doctor has stated she is happy for me to start doing light exercise after 12 weeks, not what I was hoping to hear considering I feel pretty good and that would take me to 8 weeks before my tests. I’m not expecting to be cracking out rope climbs and pressups anytime soon, I just want an estimate as to when I will be able to start running and rowing. Somthing my doctor is reluctant to give me. My question is, do you believe this is quite a conservative time line from my doctor? I mean she doesn’t really want me to do anything at all until those 12 weeks are up to the point where I have had no guidance on doing even everyday activities like when I can scratch my nose again. I joke but it feels like that.

    1. Hi Cam,
      Apologies for the delay in responding, as your comment ended up in the sin bin (spam folder), which sometimes happens due to my settings (I get tonnes of spam). Anyway, I rescued both your comments. In answer to your question, I’ll say a few things. You’re still pretty fresh out of the surgery so there is going to be some healing time (from 8 weeks on, you should be feeling pretty good). Good news is that you’re still quite young and obviously went into the surgery with a good baseline level of fitness. Also noteworthy is that the surgery was to correct ASD instead of for a quadruple bypass for severely blocked arteries.

      I would encourage you to have a talk with your cardiologist and bring to her attention your current post-operative levels of fitness. In my experience working within cardiac rehab, by around 8 weeks post-op, most people start feeling better with regards to their levels of fitness, but to be clear, this always depends on the individual. It’s not a cookie cutter one-size-fits-all approach. If you have any underlying issues beyond just the surgery (right heart dilation you mentioned in your other comment), then this might be why the doc is being cautious.

      Again, as you rightfully pointed out, I cannot give any specific guidelines to anyone here, but it’s worth having a talk with your doc about your maintaining a low to moderate level of fitness during your recovery phase (the 12 weeks she gave you). Feel free to stop back and leave another comment here as you go through the recovery process and up to the point of taking your fitness tests. It’s always helpful for other people to learn from others’ experiences.

      Best wishes,

  59. Greetings. I had 5-way bypass in June 2016. Restarted on the rowing erg after 3 weeks, at 3.05 split for 30 minutes at about hr 85. After 3 months this was down to 2.08 for the daily 30 minutes. Now its at 2.07 for a similar perceived effort. 2 breaths per stroke, 25 strokes per minute, hr about 135. No pain. I would recommend the rowing machine because it works, safely, more muscles than other exercises , and gives you a reliable measure of performance. No pounding of joints, and in any weather. Visit Youtube video of me erging if you like.
    So lucky to have had this life-saving surgery!!!
    Have fun.

    1. Good onya Graham. Glad to hear you had a successful recovery and are doing great! I think a lot of people think it’s going to be doom and gloom, but in my experience working with LOTS of cardiac rehab patients, most have uneventful recoveries and go on to live active healthy lives. Keep up the good work on the erg! 😉

  60. Hi doctor bill
    I’m Nagaraju. I’m 40 and I had 3 way CABG one month back now. I’m feeling good. I’m taking rests and also I’m doing walking in the morning and evening slowly 15 to 20 minutes. I’m on a healthy diet as per my doctor’s advice. My question is, under normal circumstances, can someone who had CABG play shuttle badminton after 2 or 3 months of recovery?

    1. Hi Nagaraju,
      Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you are on the right track and doing everything right. Plus you are still reasonably young so that is a good thing as well. The recovery time for open heart surgery, on average, is about 2 to 3 months, so once you are properly healed, you should speak with your doctor and get final approval to return to playing badminton again. If you are doing very high intensity bursts during a game of badminton, then it may be advisable for you to ask your doctor if it is worth having a stress test to ensure that there are no problems/issues with your heart at high exercise intensities. If there are no compelling medical reasons for why you cannot perform high intensity sports, then you should be able to return to badminton without any issues. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  61. Hi,
    I had triple CABG (plus an endarterectomy) twelve weeks ago. During a stress test it was discovered that, in addition to severely clogged arteries, I had, at some stage, had a silent heart attack, and part of my septum no longer contracts. However, I’m a fairly keen cyclist and ex-triathlete and came into this with good fitness. (I’m 64.)

    I’ve been back on the bike for a few weeks and feeling pretty good, and this morning I pushed myself quite hard up a few hills. Prior to surgery my max. HR was 161. This morning it got to 156, which surprised me given that I’m on Metoprolol. These hill efforts were of the order of 3-4 minutes each, with recovery between.

    I was discussing this morning’s ride with a friend and he suggested that I shouldn’t be pushing this hard, and that the bypass grafts could fail.

    I must confess I hadn’t really thought it about that. I felt good while exercising and have had no ill effects since, but is there a limit to exercise intensity that I should be observing, and for how long?

    Thanks in advance,
    Steve = : ^ )

    1. Hi Steve, Thanks for your comment. There are a few things to discuss here.

      First, you mention your heart rate was 161 before surgery and then 156 after (with a beta blocker). I would agree that’s pretty darn close to your pre-surgery HR. Perhaps you’re on a low-dose which might explain things a bit. You could discuss this with your cardiologist for further insights.

      As for your bypass grafts failing, it is theoretically possible, but it’s more the exception than the norm. The fact that you are three months post-surgery and, I would assume, have been cleared by your cardiologist for exercise, means that you should be stable and able to tolerate higher exercise intensities. I have worked with a lot of post-cabg patients in cardiac rehab, some of them athletes like yourself, who were able to tolerate extremely high exercise intensities after surgery. It’s important not to make generalisations and assume that all high intensity exercise will result in bypass grafts failing. Again, it’s a theoretical possibility, but is highly unlikely if you’ve gone through all the checks and balances provided by your cardiologist. I think if you had gone out and flogged yourself on the bike within a couple weeks of surgery (which probably wouldn’t have been comfortable anyway), then you could predispose yourself to greater risk of complications.

      Bottom line: best to discuss specifics with your cardiologist if you have concerns. But from an exercise physiologist’s perspective, if you have been cleared by your doc and are currently tolerating higher workloads with no issues, then you will probably be fine. Hope this helps.

      Kind regards,

  62. Dr. Sukala,
    Thank you for your article. My grandfather recently (September 2017) underwent open heart surgery. He has recently been feeling like his posture is more rounded and asked me to show him some exercises to help reverse that. I was planning on giving him scapular retraction exercises (light weight scapular rows with theraband or very light cables) and ER/IR stretches that I show patients dealing with shoulder impingement or rotator cuff tendonitis to train the position of his scapulae. However, I have never worked with someone s/p open heart surgery and now am concerned with the “chest opening” nature of the exercises/stretches. I am wondering if they are safe for his incision? Thank you.

    1. Hi Selena,
      Thanks for your comment. Provided your grandfather is medically stable and has been cleared for activity by his surgeon and cardiologist, then he should be ok. As he is about three months post-op now, his chest incision should be stable and past that critical period. However, it’s not unheard of for people to have some residual, lingering discomfort for up to a year (but not in all cases). In general, try to have him work within his pain-free range of motion. If he says “OUCH! THAT HURTS!” then you’ve probably gone too far. You could initially have him doing internal/external rotation movements with his elbow to his side (more supported) and then progress to less stable version of IR/ER as he improves. But the bottom line is that he should work within his pain-free range of motion. A little bit of a pull in the chest area is one thing and will probably help him improve his flexibility/ROM, but if it feels like he’s got an ice pick in his chest, then that’s going to be counterproductive. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

    1. Hi Cecilia,
      Thank you for your comment. I would strongly suggest bringing this to your surgeon’s attention and discuss your options. You first need to identify the source of the problem (likely something neurological) which could have to do with the surgery. Only once they identify the cause can they work on a treatment plan to get the shakiness to stop. It might also help to ask for a referral to a physical therapist or occupational therapist who may have experience in this sort thing. Sorry I can’t give any specific advice over the internet, but to put you at ease, your first port of call might be a phone call to your surgeon’s office. Speak to the practice nurse there and see about getting a follow up appointment. Kind regards, Bill

  63. Hi Dr,

    I have moderate aortic regurgitation (mean gradient 25mmHg), which is up from 15mmHG a year ago and I am a bit concerned that my valve leak is worsening. I had my aortic root replaced 3 1/2 years ago via open heart surgery. I am wondering if I would be eligible for a TAVR operation even though I’ve had the root replaced. I am willing to do absolutely whatever it takes to not have another open heart surgery. I am 32 years old and very active. I do HIIT cardio, which I am wondering whether is a risk for my leak. I know it’s extremely healthy for the general population, but I wonder if it is bad for someone with AR. I also do bodybuilding work outs but make sure to breathe properly and not Valsalva.

    I guess my question is why did this leak begin to happen when it was fine post aortic root surgery and is there anything I can do to stop it? And would TAVR be a possibility is it gets worse?

    Additionally, I wonder if the leak causes my resting heart rate to be slightly higher?

    1. Hi Luc,
      Thanks for your comment. To be transparent and up front, I’m an exercise physiologist not a cardiologist or surgeon, but I do have experience in working with people in cardiac rehabilitation with conditions such as yours. So I can’t provide any medical advice (legally or ethically), but I can offer you some suggestions which might help you find the answers you’re looking for.

      I think the first port of call would be to speak with your cardiologist or surgeon who performed your aortic root replacement 3.5 years ago. They will be most up to date with your medical history. Regarding the TAVR, it’s not a bad idea unless there are any medical reasons why you’d not be a good candidate. In my experience, it really depends on the individual.

      Regarding HIIT training and bodybuilding work with aortic regurgitation, I’ve worked with a lot of people who were able to tolerate reasonably high intensities after heart surgery, BUT, as I said above, it really does depend on the individual and their medical history. Speak to your doctor and be honest about the workouts you’re doing.

      Exercise at high intensities will significantly increase your blood pressure which will put pressure on the valves. If the leak is significant enough that the rest of your body is not getting enough blood (and consequently enough oxygen and nutrients) then it’s possible your heart rate might go a bit higher (physiologically this is plausible).

      I would say to be on the safe side, have a discussion with your surgeon and/or cardiologist and whether high intensity training is going to worsen or improve your condition. Yes, we know exercise is good for you, but if there are any medical reasons for which your heart health might be worsened by high intensity exercise, then that will need to be addressed. Sorry I can’t give any specifics, but I’m hopeful that you’re able to get this resolved as non-invasively as possible and keep up your exercise routine. Kind regards, Bill

      1. I appreciate it. I do have an annoying heart murmur and I wonder if I sometimes run out of breath due to the leak/diastolic dysfunction. I don’t know how bad the leak has to be before I start feeling like I have less cardiovascular stamina. It could also totally be a matter of the fact I was once 135lbs and at now 215lbs o muscle and have less endurance from that. Obviously it’s not severe enough that I would need a TAVR yet, but it’s a little concerning it could be getting worse and I don’t know why.

        1. Hi Luc,
          Ah yeah, those pesky heart murmurs. My cardiac rehab team worked closely with all the guys that ran the echocardiograms. They always said the best thing is to keep tabs on murmurs with regular checkups. Sometimes murmurs can exist but not actually cause you any real symptoms or anything that’s going to ruin your lifestyle. It’s when they become overtly symptomatic that you really have to take action. So again, talk to your docs and be really blunt and open with them about your workouts and active lifestyle. Formulate a plan for regular periodic checkups. Rule: better the devil you know than the one you don’t.

          As for being short of breath, you make a good point. You’re now carrying 215 lbs of beef compared to your previous 135 lbs. So when you go out to do cardiovascular exercise, you have lots more muscle to feed (oxygen, nutrients etc) during exercise. That could leave you feeling more winded and out of breath even with no issues with your ticker. It’s about economy of movement and if you are trying to do prolonged cardio with all that extra muscle then it’s clearly going to be like towing an anchor behind you! Muscle’s great for living heavy weights but not always best for helping you win the Boston Marathon!

          FYI, to protect your privacy, I’ve removed your last name from the posts. Your medical history is your private business 🙂

  64. I can’t thank you enough for your helpful, informative replies. I suppose worst case is I end up needing a TAVR at some point in my life, whether it’s sooner or later (hopefully much later). Thanks for removing my last name.

    1. Hi Luc,
      No worries. Happy to help where I’m able. The best peace of mind you’ll have is keeping a good line of communication with your medical management team. I hope for your sake that you won’t need any more surgeries, but if you can find a least invasive option, then that’s definitely the way to go. Feel free to stop back and leave more comments. It’s good to keep the discussion public because other people in a similar situation can learn from your experience too. Cheers, Bill

  65. gary a isterling

    I had quadruple open heart surgery on dec 22,2017. I spent 11 days in hospital and 12 days in re-hab. Two days after my surgery they had me get up and walk. They wanted 100 steps walking with walker. I told my doctor i did not feel right with the request. He said what do you want to do daily and I said 300 steps around the hospital floor and nursing station. I did 1500 steps in 5 days. I really tried to do all i could to get back on my feet. I am 79 yrs old and i was playing 1/2 court basketball and walking 25 miles per/week. I have found that you can do a lot more than you think think positive at all times. Believe me after surgery and walking, I was very tired but really slept well, if you can get a good night sleep in a hospital. I wanted to get back home to fix my own food and walk, and most of all rest. I am now driving grocery shopping laundry and really taking my meds. I am a very lucky person. I had no chest pain or problem breathing, but had 3 blocked arteries. I did a lot of praying to please give me pass on a new life.

    1. Hi Gary, Thanks for taking time to leave a message about your experience. It’s important that others read your words to provide hope. If you were in hospital for 11 days, then perhaps you had a more complicated run (compared to the usual 4 or 5 days in-hospital). Keep up the great work!

  66. Hello Doctor Sukala,
    I had a bypass three weeks ago. It goes without saying that I’m still in pain on my chest (and numbness at the same time as same as my left hand specially the thumb numbness and I am a guitar player and song writer. I want to believe that this numbness on my hand will go soon…) I’m not even worry about my chest pain…I have to go through these pains, burnings, and the numbness.
    But my main problem is that In was a and is a Bipolar 2 patient with 5 years of anxiety and panick attacks and it was fully chronic, meaning I wake up with panic attack right into my stomach and go to sleep with the same , which in my case means I constantly had and still have a heart rate of minimum 120 almost all the time. My Psychiatrist has been working with me but according to him this illness could take 10 to 20 years to go away, if it does…
    So the doctors kept me in hospital longer thinking I had complications after the surgery, but even though it was in file, but they didn’t consult with my psychiatrist and did the surgery anyway regardless of my bipolar2.
    I’m home now and they know my problem …but no one can do anything about it , since my heart rate even with heart beat controlling pills is still around 115, so under best Condon I can only walk for about 3 minutes 4 to five times a day, but it doesn’t get better…Now all doctors try to avoid me because they don’t know now what to do with me….
    The amount of my walk is the same as before and I can’t seem to add ump speed or distance….
    I should also mention that they told me without the surgery I could have only a couple months to live since I had all three main vessels almost 100 blocked, and of course I had a heart attack and I ended up here, primarily not because of cholesterol or diabetes or anything at all, my chart was great….but because of the constant anxiety and panicky attacks, the amount of stress in me gave me the heart attack…
    Now not only I still have high heart beat as a normal thing…but also still suffering from anxiety… but to be honest the level of anxiety which used to be at 8 or 9 now is about 6 and I don’t know if it’s a side effect of the surgery or will go back to the worse later on… just need some input, I appreciate.

    1. Hi Josh,
      Thanks for leaving a message. There certainly are a lot of moving parts to your situation, but one thing I can say is to remember that you are only three weeks post-surgery and these things take time to heal. Think of open heart surgery as a controlled car wreck. The surgery is a pretty significant trauma to your body and these things don’t heal fast. In most cases, it can take about two to three months before you’re feeling remotely back to normal, and even then you might notice a few little weird aches and pains along the way up to about a year or so. Again, I know it’s no fun, but remember to give yourself permission to be human.

      Regarding your medications for your heart and your anxiety/bipolar 2, I would suggest having another talk with your cardiologist/heart surgeon and psychiatrist to see if there is any possibility for you to change meds or dosages. Sometimes finding an alternative can offer some relief and help you move forward.

      On a positive note, I see you mentioned that your anxiety has come down a notch, so this is a good thing. You may find that as you progress through the recovery period that you will start to feel increasingly better and, perhaps, your anxiety levels will drop further.

      Bottom line: give it some time since you’re still early days post-surgery. Try to maintain a good working relationship with your medical management team and discuss your options with them (i.e., if a medication change or reduction/increase in dosage is appropriate). Hope this helps.

      Kind regards

      1. Awesome, thanks for your suggestion. I already called for appointment from both and still waiting..and as you mentioned I think I really need to give time to my body and brain to cope with all this..
        Many blessings

        1. I know it’s a tedious process waiting for appointments, but knowledge about your surgery and anxiety and some reassurance from your medical team will go a long way to helping you relax during the healing process. Hang in there! Cheers

  67. Great site and service you provide. Last year was one to forget, I had triple hernia surgery, colonoscopy, three steroid injections in my back, then shingles…..ouch. After ridding myself of shingles a routine wellness check led to triple bypass surgery. Previous to the cabg surgery to help the back I returned to swimming, 3-6000 yards a week. I even swam 1000 yard the day before my angiogram. I am currently 5 months post surgery and I’m hearing conflicting reports as to how much I can lift. I”ve gone back to swimming and have routinely lifted 50+ pounds (after my 3 month gallon of milk instructions). At my 4 month doctor follow up I was told not to lift more than 20-30 pounds and by another doctor that the sternum doesn’t ever “totally” heal. I know that every case is different, but will I be limited to 20-30 lbs forever? I’m 6’1″ and about 220 and feel like I could start bench pressing again if not now, soon. Will the sternum totally heal and will I be able to lift my 50lb grandkids?

    1. Hi and thanks for your comment. I can certainly empathise that it’s frustrating when you get conflicting information. With regards to your sternum, it can take time for it to heal. The first 6 months the docs are going to be extra cautious in telling you how much you should or shouldn’t lift. In my work in cardiac rehab, I often found that within the 6 to 12 month time frame, most patients were able to start lifting heavier weights again. But having said that, let me make it clear that I can’t give any specific advice online, as I am not fully aware of your entire medical history.

      Best bet: it may be worth going to a cardiac rehabilitation and working with a clinical exercise physiologist (even if your insurance didn’t cover it, you may be able to get a reasonable price for a few sessions to run some tests on you). They’ll be best qualified and familiar with your medical history and can work with your docs to develop appropriate exercise recommendations. Based on your IP address, you appear to be based around Houma, LA. I did some searching and found two hospitals located in your area which have cardiac rehab programs. I particularly liked the Ochsner program because they have clinical exercise physiologists with masters degrees (not spandexed gym rats promoting bro science!)

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  68. Hi Dr

    am just 44 and will be able to place Football/ soccer at completive label again after open heart surgery

  69. Hello Dr. I recently had a quadruple bypass and approx 6 months out and definitely gained some weight not being as active as I should be but i am starting the gym and wondering can I take a fat burner pill?

    1. Hi Charles, Thanks for your comment. If you’ve had any cardiac issue, I would strongly advise speaking to your doc before taking any of these so-called “fat burner” supplements on the market. The truth is that most fat burner pills are just caffeinated herbal concoctions that really don’t have much of an effect on fat loss other than making you feel wired. Plus there is always the risk of them spiking your blood pressure and/or heart rate through the roof which is not the most desirable effect after having had 4 way bypass surgery.

      Here are some other articles on my site which you might find interesting.

      Kind regards,

  70. Good day. It is great to read the information thanks! Can someone with an aortic aneurysm do rebound (trampoline) exercise. Bounce vs a jump?

    1. Hi Ancois, Aortic aneurysm is pretty serious stuff, but the only one who can give you a definitive answer is your doctor. It depends on how critical the aneurysm is. It’s often a case of “let’s track it over time” or “we need to fix this as soon as possible.” I would recommend you discuss your concerns with your cardiologist and specifically ask what restrictions, if any, there are for your condition. Kind regards

      1. Thanks. She is not jumping, just health bounce without feet leaving the mat and walking on it. Dr does not want to operate now though.

  71. I had CABG done in Nov 2014 and now well. my weight is not reducing. Now i have stated to do regular excercise. I want to know if I shake my body on the stomach and the chest and the upper part of chest vigorously which i feel will reduce my tummy and fat deposits under the chin. will this cause any problem in the heart.

    1. Hi Joseph,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure exactly what you’re talking about when you say “shake your body on the stomach and chest” but taking on board your surgery was in 2014 and your doctor has cleared you for exercise (which should have happened ages ago), then you may be able to tolerate reasonably higher exercise intensities. If you have any doubts, then I’d recommend speaking to your cardiologist and perhaps discuss if it’s worth having a max treadmill stress test to really push your heart and see if there are any abnormalities which would preclude you from exercising at higher intensities. Usually if you can tolerate high intensities on a stress test then you could probably do most activities without much reason for concern. Bottom line: always speak to your doc if you have any questions or concerns, as the internet is full of questionable information. Kind regards, Bill

  72. How irritated is that I wrote this huge comment only to delete it on accident.
    What a great page you have here and site. The past 6 weeks been searching for this kind of information.. as a 49 year old male personal trainer and former bodybuilder it’s been tough to find information 4 people we’ve been through open heart surgery and want to return to lifting and they’re active lifestyle. Everything is basically General online and it’s hard to get a good read on what’s right for me. One thing I learned from my surgeon this week was everybody’s different and will respond faster and are ready 4 things quicker. His nurse even said the problem with Gathering too much information online is that you’re not talking to your surgeon who has seen the inside of your rib cage and what’s going on with your heart.
    Anyway I had CABG3X 6 weeks ago and I was told this week I’m way ahead of schedule and was actually cleared for regular workouts just not going above 40 lb and to progress slowly. I found one great YouTube video from a heart surgeon about sternum recovery as well as a great study on sternal precautions. The article basically says how important it is to be exercising during your recovery even in the early stages because failure to do so can lead too much further complications. Would love to somehow send you both links but was not able to in the comment section. Reading and watching both of these really gave me a positive outlook on my situation so I love to share with you if there’s a way I can do it so you can approve them.
    Thank you for a great site. Is very informative and very and helpful to me and my recovery.
    See you on FB!

  73. Hi Dr. Sukala, I’m glad I found the site. Even though you can’t provide specific advice, it’s still the best info on suggested activity I’ve found.

    I’m 53, male, was very active beforehand (adult soccer, biking up mountains, running, HIIT, high rep weights) before being told my ascending aortic root aneurysm had reached the point I needed surgery. While they had me open, they replaced my aortic valve. I’m 6 weeks out from surgery now and feeling pretty good. My sternum still hurts if I do the wrong thing, but I am regaining stamina and walking 3-5 miles per day, riding the exercise bike, and starting to do light weights to regain strength in my arms.

    My valve had 40-50% regurgitation before the surgery, and has none now (!). My question is, in your experience, have you seen that people who were active before can resume cardiac improvement activity as long as they stop if they see signs of heart issues (angina, chest tightness, etc). I realize that I could have some specific condition and could keel over any time! I’m not looking to be back where I was pre-surgery tomorrow, but I would like to get there over several months.

    1. Hi David,
      Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment. While you’re right, I can’t provide any specific over-the-internet advice, I can definitely share a few things which may help you.

      First, it’s excellent that you were going into this as an active person. In my experience, people who are active tend to do a lot better than people who are inactive. The main reason for this is not just being healthy and active, but also what’s happening between the ears. People with a good healthy mindset and attitude who are LOOKING to get healthy again after surgery often tend to put in the effort. People who were apathetic about their health before often tend to not care much about it even after major surgery.

      Second, I have worked with some pretty extreme cases (i.e., people who were literally being kept alive by a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) awaiting a heart transplant). And even from literally knocking on death’s door, I’ve seen some pretty miraculous comebacks. So in your case, while having aortic valve replacement is no trivial routine matter, it’s not an extreme surgery. Having some residual soreness at only 6 weeks post-op is not unheard of. The sternum can take some time to heal up, so that’s just a matter of being patient.

      Third, in most cases, it’s pretty hard to kill yourself with exercise after open heart surgery IF you are working with your medical management team and following the guidance they give you. Make sure you pay attention to any signs or symptoms and speak with your doc (or doc’s team) if you’re not sure.

      Fourth, you have a realistic expectation of time frames for recovery. You understand that open heart surgery is some serious sh*t and you’re not trying to run a marathon tomorrow (yes, I see this all the time). Keep up the good work you’ve been doing and make small and steady changes to your exercise regimen over time.

      Bottom line: work with your medical management team (docs, cardiac rehab etc), watch for signs and symptoms (i.e., don’t be a hero), and just be patient. Chances are, you’ll be just fine. Feel free to drop back later on and write another comment so others can learn from your experience.

      Kind regards,

      1. Hi Dr. Bill and his fans from around the world,

        I am now 5 months out from surgery as described above. I have made further progress, though I must admit my heart is not yet back to my pre-operative state of conditioning/efficiency.

        I am now 54 years old. Prior to my operation, I could run 4 x 8 minute miles, and I played winger on my old man soccer team. When I first tried running after surgery, I ran maybe 1/4 mile at a 12:30 pace 6- 8 weeks post surgery. Progress has been uneven, but I have gotten down to being able to do a mile in under 10:00, and quarter miles in sub 8:00 pace. As opposed to quarter miles, sometimes I find it useful to run 1/8 miles, and I feel better bc I can run those faster!

        It hasn’t been easy though — they replaced my valve and my aortic root. Despite the fact I don’t have regurgitation, my left ventricle isn’t as efficient as it was before. I have an exercising ekg scheduled shortly, after which I’m going to go to a biking gym where they measure VO2 max and such. Hopefully I will have a better understanding of my body’s pump after that.

        No matter what the tests show, I will continue to retrain what I am gifted with now to be the best heart it can be. That’s the message I want to convey to the readers around the world, because it’s the only choice we all now have. Keep going and keep working, and you will make progress. Don’t expect miracles, even though you might be one of the fortunate people who achieve miraculous results.

        1. Hi David, Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience for everyone. I know a lot of people appreciate learning about how other people’s surgeries went and the ways they were able to get back to their lives again. I’m really happy to hear that you are getting an exercise stress test because that’s a good way to get (with reasonable confidence) an idea how your ticker will fare under higher workloads. I think it’s important to deal with the hand you were dealt, be it an easy one or a difficult one, but it can get better again. Keep up the great work and feel free to stop back any time to leave more updates. Cheers, Bill

  74. mohammad shukri

    hello dr.sukala i am 21 years old and did an ASD heart surgery 8 months ago and i feel so good and i am not taking any medication .. so i want to ask you can i practice crossfit training ? and how can determine the safe weight that should i lift it ?

    1. Hi Mohammad, Thank you for your comment. The only person who can really give you the all clear for CrossFit training would be your cardiologist and/or surgeon. I would suggest speaking to them about perhaps having a treadmill stress test done and, if that comes out all clear, then it would at least give an indication of how well your body tolerates the higher intensity exercise. Of course a treadmill isn’t quite CrossFit, I know, but if your heart looks totally normal on the ECG at high intensities and you are not having any symptoms, then this may help convince them to give you the green light. If they give you clearance for this, then, as with all exercise, it is advisable to start off lighter and progress to higher intensities, paying particular attention to how you feel during and after sets, and as you progress from lighter to higher resistance. Sorry I can’t give you any specific advice over the internet, nor should you take anyone’s advice over the internet, but I think if you have an honest conversation with your docs about your intention then you’ll be on the right track. The fact that you’re still young and healthy in every other way only works to your advantage. Best wishes and feel free to stop back and leave another comment after you talk to your doc and/or being crossfit. Your comment can help inspire other people going through a similar issue. Cheers, Bill

  75. Hi Bill,

    thank you for this wonderful webpage with so many good advice. I don’t know if you will be able to answer my question but do you think cardiologist can predict outcome of the operation and also possible complications based on the exams they do? I am 30 yo, I have a mitral valve regurgitation IV degree (mitral valve prolapse – both leaflets) and cardiologists say it should be operated. Other than that, my heart is working perfectly (75% EF, no other valve problems, no left ventricle overload, no hypertension, no elevated pulse, no lung hypertension, BMI 19.5, no subjective symptoms other than being sleepy quite often). I will have a heart cathetrisation in September and probably some stress test etc. Still, can they predict how the recovery will look like based on all that and how the sternum will be healing or really it is a crystal ball prediction even for them. Thank you

    1. Hi Peter, Thanks for your comment. I don’t think there’s any crystal ball to predict exactly how the recovery will go, but I can tell you with reasonable confidence that the younger and healthier you are going into it, often times the better you’ll be coming out the other end. I’ve worked with a lot of patients in cardiac rehab that were young and had open heart surgery for congenital heart defects and valve issues. The reason they often did better than their older counterparts was because they were healthier overall in terms of their bigger health picture (i.e., no high blood pressure, no elevated lipids, no diabetes or blood sugar abnormalities, no obesity, etc). Based on what you’ve written, you would probably fall into that category of healthy except for needing your mitral valve repaired or replaced. Your best bet is to discuss with your doc to help put you at ease. Hope this helps. Cheers



    1. Hi Scott, I would strongly encourage you to speak to your doctor for further work up. Perhaps have your doc review any meds you’re taking, as maybe they are affecting your blood pressure. The only one who can really tell is your doc, as he/she will be most familiar with your medical history. Kind regards, Bill

  77. Dear Dr. Im 36 years of age. I had an open heart surgery by birth. As well as went for a operation on my left breast cause it had a lump. The dr accidently cut off all my breast tissue with the operation being done. I would like to share my story for people to read. I have graded in brown belt karate in 1999. U have accompliced most in life. My sleeping pattern is bad. I can sleep up until 16 hours a day straight through. I work, go home, and sleep. It feels like the more I sleep the weaker I make my heart. Its difficult for me to be in a normal relationship and have to explain why I sleep so much and why I get tired so quickly. I was in a couple of abusive relationships where my body went into shock and my lung collapsed. They had to put a pipe in behind my silicone breast to the lung to get air in again. Ever since that my whole left side and heart is so much more weaker. I feel like im 80 and only turning 37 in feb. I know this is only about heart surgeries but I just felt like sharing my story. Maybe there is some one who needs to read this. Im alone today. And prefer it like that… I can sleep when I want to and dont have to always explain why and what…. I have a huge insomnia problem and take 2* 7.5 zopivane at night and 3* higest dose of purata tranquilizer. Then I can only calm down and finally fall asleep. I have been on them for about 3 years. I know it does make my heart weaker and weaker everyday. But through all the emotional and physical abuse through the years I believe that sleep is a therapy to escape all… even if it does make my heart weak. At the end of the day if GOD fetches HIS kids HE is not taking your heart but your soul. Thank you that I could have shared.

  78. Hello Dr. Sukala,
    I realize diagnosing is impossible with a limited email such as this, but perhaps you can give me your opinion: I am a 57yr old male who underwent triple bypass on April/18. Prior to this I was healthy and very fit due to extensive cycling. I was admitted twice to the hospital 4 weeks post op, then again 6 weeks post op complaining of severe lightheadedness making it difficult to even make it to the bathroom. Tests were performed both times only to confirm that everything heart related was fine. I am only on ASA and Lipitor daily. Five months out, I am doing much better but am only able to walk about 15min at a time 4-5 times daily. This also, is improving. My “team” seems to think that I was extremely petrified with fear after the surgery and was literally afraid to move. This seems to make sense to me. I would love our opinion on this realizing the limited information you have to go on.

    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hi Randy,
      As you rightfully pointed out, I can’t really say what’s going on based on limited information provided over the internet. You are only taking aspirin and a statin for meds so that would rule out your dizziness being caused by side effects from diuretics or beta blockers. It’s understandable that you’d be fearful of exercise after all you’ve been through, but as you pointed out, you seem to be moving in the right direction now. Open heart surgery is a stressor on the body and not everyone goes through the recovery process in exactly the same way. Some people have a hard time and others sail right through. So in your case, it appears you had a rough time, but remember to let yourself be human and not be too hard on yourself. If you can slowly progress yourself onto longer durations fewer times per day, then eventually you will “graduate” to doing one or two longer sessions per day. Keep in close contact with your medical management team for regular monitoring of signs and symptoms and be sure to get checked out if you’re not feeling well. Other than that, it’s likely just a question of time for you to get back to feeling normal again. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  79. I had open heart surgery two months ago I have been walking my exercise but I would like to lay on the floor and do leg exercise s

  80. Trevor Robertson

    Hi Dr Sukala
    I have just turned 58 and had 3 x CABG on 13th August 2018. So I am into my 11th week post op. Looking back without really knowing it I had been having angina pains for over a year before my op. I would advise any chest discomfort be checked out asap no matter how fit and healthy you think you are. I saw my GP Jan this year after suffering pains only 8 mins into my walk and had tingling sensation in left arm. Anyway I was given GTN Spray which I used prior to doing any exercise, it helped me keep my self fit whilst going through the system. I had an angiography April and from that I was advised to have 3 x CABG. I was able to prepare myself mentally for the operation by researching everything the good and the bad and I was determined to face both the op and the recovery with a positive mental attitude. I Kept doing light exercise whilst awaiting the op which meant I was reasonably healthy. My recovery was really good had a minor set back with a pneumohaemothorax which was noticed about 36 hours after my op. That was dealt with and my total stay in hospital was 7 days. I did lots of walking little and often first week home then built up to longer walks I managed a 10 mile hilly walk walking at 3.5 to 4 mph pace, in my 4th week. I am a keen but not very good surfer took it up at age of 50 so keen to get back in the water. I have been in the pool since week 9 and slowly building up my paddle strength. I have also started doing weights nothing heavy, but able to do same weights as prior to op. The purpose of this post is to encourage people to go into op with Positive attitude and know that it is uncomfortable at times but it will pass and make the most of the 2nd chance that has been given. I do believe that my fitness before the op has helped a lot, also my heart was and is strong it was just the pipes. I would encourage all to exercise regularly even if you have never done it for a long time, 1 more step a day is improvement. I regularly check my Blood Pressure and Heart Rate. I still suffer some discomfort on sternum and some numbness in left arm and hand from where one artery was taking, but this is expected and does not affect my ability to do things. Really I just hope that this encourages other people, I did build up slowly and have taken plenty of rest all of which has helped. I do think that the general information of waiting 12 weeks before doing a lot of things is not really helpful, Everyone should have an understanding of their own limitations and anything painful should be stopped immediately but try again in a couple of weeks etc

  81. Hi Dr Sukala,
    I am a 64 year male. I had a heart bypass surgery on 11th august 2018. Now I feel that i have recovered about 70%. Sugar/BP are normal.

    After 4 weeks of surgery I started to walk in the garden and gradually it has also improved. Today my speed is about 15 minutes per mile.

    What I observed in past month that during my walks there is no tiredness/weakness, But while returning, home I feel dizziness while getting out of my car. This subsides in 1 minute, but I have to hold the car door for a while.

    My cardiologist suggested to drink water before going to walk, that has also not worked.

    Please provide some guidance in this matter.

    Thanks and regards

    1. Hi BK,
      Thanks for leaving a comment. If you’re taking beta blocker medications and perhaps diuretics, these can make your blood pressure lower. Exercise also causes the blood vessels to dilate (open up), so when you finish exercise, the combination of the medications and exercise may be making you feel a bit dizzy. If this is the case, then you may need to drink more water (than you were) which will help keep up your blood volume.

      Your best bet is to discuss this further with your cardiologist to rule out anything else which might be responsible. Your medical management team will be most familiar with your entire medical history so they’ll be able to best help you.

      kind regards,

  82. Hi. Interesting article. I had OHS (aortic valve replacement) 6 weeks ago. My sternum still hurts. The surgeon said I’m doing great. Also, I hate exercising. Reallly really detest it! I know it’s critical to my recovery so I push myself to walk but I’m very unhappy doing it! I have opted to dancing. I put on my 60s CDs and dance for 30 minutes. That, I love. But the whole cardiac rehab thing is horrible in my opinion

    1. Hi Maryann,
      Yeah, I will agree with you that the sternum pain can last a little while. But to be fair, if you’re only 6 weeks post-op, then it’s still early days. Usually by a few months, most of the pain will have subsided, so it’s really a game of patience more than anything.

      As for physical activity, it’s not all about walking on treadmills and riding bikes. The best thing you can do is find the activities you enjoy and do them…regularly.

      Hope your sternum pain goes away soon. Best wishes, Bill

  83. Hi Dr Sukala , I had my aorta root & ascending replaced after an aneurysm also my aortic valve was repaired (David’s sparring procedure) 5 months ago. I’ve now gone back to work and running cycling weight training etc as I’ve always kept fit. But sometimes I get a slight tightening in my chest and I’m not sure if it’s sternum pain or something else. 6 weeks after surgery my local GP said I heart murmur had disappeared but now another dr at my local GP said she has picked up on a heart murmur. Is this normal or should I see my cardiologist about another echocardiogram as I was due to have one in about 3months just has a routine check up.

    Kind Regards


    1. Hi Lee,
      Thanks for your comment. In general sternum pain can last a while even if everything is healing up well. Remember that an open heart procedure is kind of like a controlled car wreck. It’s a trauma on your body and that can take some time to heal. Having some lingering little aches and pains is no fun, but it’s no uncharted territory per se. I’ve seen people with lingering sternum discomfort for up to a year, but to be fair, this is not common in my experience. To be safe, it is always best to see your cardiologist for a proper evaluation rather than leave it to guess work. Likewise, if your GP suspects a heart murmur, it would be best to at least make a phone call to your cardiologist or surgeon’s practice nurse and run this by her/him. They can best advise you on if you should have another echocardiogram before your scheduled one. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  84. Wondering what’s reasonable timeframe for walk/jogging a half marathon goaling for 3 hour race time. I’m 58, 4.5 months post surgery, have walked 13 miles twice, jogged 2 miles in 28 minutes today. No surgery complications and recovery going well.

    1. Hi Keith,
      Thanks for your comment. The best answer to your question is always the same: it depends. Each person is different and, depending on individual medical history, each person will have different exercise levels and progressions. Looking at the information you’ve provided, you have clearly shown that you’re able to cover the distance you’re shooting for and without any signs or symptoms. Provided you have been cleared for exercise by your cardiologist and/or surgeon (which by now I expect you would be), then you should be able to set yourself up on a training schedule to accomplish your goal. You might try consulting a clinical exercise physiologist in your area to help you with this. Kind regards, Bill

  85. Hi

    I am 10 weeks post triple bypass and now able to walk for more than an hour per day. For the past couple of days I have been playing badminton and I wonder whether it is okay to do so as sometimes in the heat of the game I do play a forceful shot with my left hand. Would be grateful for your advice on this. Thank you.

    1. Hi Balaji
      I would recommend getting clearance from your cardiologist regarding higher intensity exercise. Also be aware that your sternum is still healing and this can take some time. You might discuss the possibility of having a treadmill stress test in order to determine how your heart responds to higher intensity activity. If your doctor thinks you can tolerate the higher workloads, then you’ll probably get clearance to play badminton. Always best to be safe. Kind regards.

  86. Hi Dr Sukala,
    I’m Ali and I’m 37 years old. I would like to know, can I do anaerobic training to improve my acid lactic system for competition. I’m a basketball player and I want to play for the last time in my life. I need to know after one year, can I do plyometrics for jumping and explosive system? By the way, I’m 37 i have 2 year for preparation. This is my last take off
    thank u?

    1. Hi Ali,
      I’m guessing you’ve had open heart surgery since you’re commenting on this post, but you have not provided any details of your medical history. While I can’t provide any specific guidelines here, I would advise speaking to your cardiologist about whether or not you can participate in high intensity sport and/or exercise again. Ask if you can have a treadmill stress test done and see how your heart rate and blood pressure respond to high intensity workloads. If your doctor feels that you are low risk, then you may get clearance to play basketball at high intensities. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  87. Hi I would like to ask if different climate or diet could have influence on my recovery ? For example if I’m moving to new part of the world

    1. Hi Mori,
      Going to a place with extreme differences in temperature (i.e., very hot/humid or very cold/dry) or pressure (high altitude) could have an impact on your blood pressure and heart rate. That would happen whether you’ve had surgery or not, but it’s always best to discuss these things with your doctor who will be most familiar with your individual medical history and can provide the most accurate advice.

  88. Unfortunately, I will need an AVR soon. I previously had aortic root surgery, which required a full sternum open heart incision. Fortunately, I will be able to have a mini sternotomy for my upcoming AVR. I couldn’t bench press heavy weights after my last surgery for 7 months, so I am hoping that recovery time frame will be much less this time around. I am 33, in excellent shape, and will be doing everything properly in terms of diet and aerobic training.

    If you had to guess based on what I just told you about myself, how soon can I expect to be back in the gym 100% and able to bench press again? I understand you can’t give me a definitive answer, nor would I expect one, but I am trying to gauge what I might be looking at here.


    1. Hi Luke
      As you guessed, there is no cook book response where it’s the same for everyone. Your heart itself will probably be in good shape by a few months post-op but the sternum can be tricky and healing times can vary. I’d suggest speaking to your surgeon and also ask about having a stress test a couple months after your surgery to see how your heart responds to high intensity exercise. Really the smoking gun here will be your sternum both in terms of strength and pain. Bottom line, always best to have a talk with your surgeon. Cheers, Bill

  89. Grateful for the information.I had a Type A TAD almost 2yrsago. Im65 and want to start water aerobics not vigorous. I’ll follow your guidelines.

  90. Hi Dr. Sukala. I had a triple Bypass cab in September of 2018. I have been feeling quite tired. On December 10th 2018 I had a heart attack and by the way I had six stents. When I had a heart attack they noticed that one artery was closed they had to stent it. They also found a blood blood clot on artery and had to stent that and they found a blood clot on the tip of my heart which they put me on blood thinners. My chest is tender to the touch. I’m 67 guess I’m a mess. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I still am extremely tired!!

    1. Hi Susan, It sounds like you really had a rough time. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m wondering if the heart attack occurred in arteries other than the ones they bypassed. If you’re feeling a bit anxious after all this, I would strongly suggest visiting a hospital social worker or psychologist trained in helping people with medical issues. When you’re feeling better, you might also consider getting approval to attend cardiac rehab near you. Based on your IP address, you might be located in Florida which should have cardiac rehabs in the area. Feel free to stop back and leave another comment later on if you’d like to share your experience for others. Kind regards, Bill

      1. Hi Dr. Sukala. One of my bypass closed 80% so they stented it. They found this out when I had my heart attack in Dec. that’s when they found everything out with the clots. Thank goodness that I had a symptom and took action quickly. I have been to cardiac rehab. All in all I have 8 stents and triple Bypass. Just on so much meds and they make me have tremors and tired. I see my psychiatrist Fri..

  91. My name is Sumbul. I had heart surgery 1 year ago.. now I’m doing a job in the bank.. I had had a chest infection many times after open heart surgery.. now I’m feeling that I’m losing weight. I’m very anxious about it please tell me what should I do? I discussed this with my consultant and always have to listen that it takes time to recover.. but I’m losing my weight day by day ..

    1. Hi Sumbul,
      Whilst I can’t say exactly what is causing your weight loss, it may be worth visiting a dietitian in your area. Based on your IP address, you appear to be in Karachi, Pakistan. Have a look here at this page and there is a listing of dietitians that may be able to help you with your eating:

      I would also add that your doctor is correct. It does take time to heal, but it has also been one year since the surgery. Perhaps you might discuss options with your doctor regarding having further lab tests done to see if there are any abnormal changes in your blood or urine biomarkers.

      Hope this helps.
      Kind regards,

  92. I had an AVR operation 4 years ago and my age is now 28. Can I play badminton and climb mountains? Only issue is after around 10 to 15 minutes my heart beats fast and my breathing increases.

    1. Hi Bilal, Best to speak with your doctor for specific limitations and recommendations about physical activity. But remember that it is normal for your heart rate and breathing to increase when you do exercise. That’s what’s supposed to happen when you’re active. It helps the active muscles get all the oxygen and nutrients they need to fuel exercise. If your AVR was four years ago and you’ve not had any issues up to this point, then that is a good sign. But always best to consult your doctor if you have any concerns. Kind regards, Bill

  93. This is a very useful site for all OHS patient. Trust me I will come visit this every now and then to read useful information about OHS. I gave just undergone OHS for the replacement of my mitral regurgitation valve. My surgeon replaced it with a tissue valve. After one week in the hospital I am now home recuperating. The recovery process is well and good. Thanks for all the help and support of all the UMC medical staff. I will recommend this site to my friend who had undergone the same heart procedure as I am . Thank you Dr. Sukala.

    1. The answer is always the same: it depends. First, you need to be cleared for exercise by your surgeon or cardiologist. Second, even with clearance, you might only be allowed to do more general conditioning exercises like walking or riding a stationary bike. After around 6 to 8 weeks, depending on how you’re feeling and if there is any discomfort in your sternum, then you might be able to start with something like crunches. If you can tolerate that, then you might be able to add a bit of intensity.

      Bottom line: work closely with your doc, get clearance for exercise, try to enroll in a cardiac rehab program and get supervised instruction, then graduate onto independent exercise as tolerated.

      Hope this helps,

  94. I am a 67 year old male. I have lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I am a type 11 diabetic, and use insulin to help control my BSL. I also suffer from CKD (Iga Nephropathy) I was recently admitted (elective surgery) for a Pericardectomy, to try and resolve issues of severe dyspnoea and oedema I hade plural effusion and ascites. I had been admitted three times prior for chest pain of a presumed cardiac origin, and had a cardiac angioplasty on each occasion, with no signs of coronary arterial occlussions. A CT Angiogram showed similar results. My thoughts indicated a constrictive pericarditis, hence the surgery. Post operative weight loss (using diuretics) was a massive 30 Kg – I now weigh in at 100 Kg (height is 188 cm)
    I feel great and at 4 weeks post op have been walking up to 7 Kms a day.
    I am interested in building my upper body strength and be able to lift. Is there any exercise program you can recommend ?

    1. Hi Gazza,
      Wow, you’ve certainly been through the wars and back. I’m glad to hear you’re feeling well. Based on your IP address, you look to be located in Western Australia. The best bet for you would be to check out the Exercise and Sport Science website ( and look into working with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist who has experience working with people with cardiac and metabolic conditions. You can get several sessions covered under Medicare too, so it won’t cost anything out of pocket (unless there is a small fee added above the Medicare schedule).

      You’ll want to exercise initially under supervision in order to build up some safe and effective exercise habits tailored to your medical history. Then you can branch off and do your own self-directed exercise routine.

      Feel free to stop back and let me know how you get on with everything. I really can’t give you an exercise program over the internet, but based on what you’ve provided, you’re certainly on the right track if you’re doing 7 kms a day! You might also ask your doc if you can begin doing some resistance exercise using your body weight such as (initially) wall pushups and then gradually work from a vertical to more horizontal body position. It’s really a case of easing into it slowly and paying attention to how you’re feeling (for any signs or symptoms) and progressing little by little. Again, if you can get a referral from your GP to work with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, then that will give you the most bang for your buck. You’ll get hands-on relevant advice specific to your individual situation.

      Kind regards,

  95. Dear Dr. Sukala,

    I am a 57 year old healthy male recovering from a STEMI. Two stents were inserted in my RCA which was 100% blocked upon arrival to the hospital. Post surgery evaluation revealed 2 blockages (50% and 60%) in my LCA. Prior to my MI I was cycling 100 km per week and lifting weights 5 days on 7. The irony in all of this is that I was on my bike when the MI occurred and my diet, family history, medical history (check-ups, blood tests etc.) and activity level were not indicative of a MI event. I am currently in a rehab program (5 weeks and counting) however I am frustrated with the both the level of cardio intensity and the minimal amount of strength training involved. My hope is that my upcoming stress test will provide some definitive guidelines vis-a-vis aerobic thresholds and strength training. In your experience is this case? Have you had patients who were fit and active prior to a MI event return to their previous level of activity or is it the case that I am destined to a future of recreational cycling and 15 rep exercise sets?

    Very happy to be alive, frustrated with the pace of recovery.


    1. Hi Michael,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I can completely understand your frustration because you are used to being very active, far more than most people. So when these sorts of things land in your lap, it really hits you harder psychologically than it does physically. I’ve worked with a lot of high-level athletes who ended up getting an angioplasty and/or open heart surgery and, to be honest, athletes are the best and the “worst” patients at times. They’re the best because they’re very tuned in to getting better, but also “bad” patients at times because they tend to want to get straight back into their training immediately after surgery. So on that note…

      If you’re only five weeks out and you had an MI, then you still have some healing going on inside your heart. Here are some things to consider:

      1. Was there any damage to your heart muscle? If so, how much damage?
      2. Did your cardiologist make any assessment of your ejection fraction?
      3. Which meds are you prescribed and what are the doses (higher doses of beta blockers can really make you feel tired)

      For here and now, I would suggest keeping the lines of communication open with your cardiologist and allied health team (i.e., cardiac rehab). Once you have your follow up stress test, you will know a lot more information about how your heart is doing after the surgery. Provided that you are able to tolerate high workloads and are medically stable, then your cardiologist might clear you to get back to your previous activity level. You might also have a discussion about the risks vs rewards. In other words, your cardiologist might say something along the lines of “yes you can go back to your previous training but as long as you accept there might be some risks.” But to be honest, whether you’ve had an MI or not, there are always risks and for many athletes, it is a quality of life consideration. You can back off, slow down, and “take it easy” but doing so would cut into your quality of life. So there are a few moving parts to making these decisions.

      In answer to your question, yes, I have worked with athletes that had pretty big heart attacks that still managed to get back to competing at high levels. Remember that as an athlete, you likely have a lot of peripheral adaptations that actually PROTECT your heart. Your exercising muscles are so well-trained that they help compensate for and reduce stress on your heart. I would also bet that you had a LOT of collateral circulation around your blockages which is probably the reason why you were not aware of the coronary artery disease in the first place (it’s more common in athletes than untrained people).

      Regarding your 50 and 60% blockages, this is something you’ll also want to discuss with your cardiologist. The more information you have the better because, in general, depending on the cardiologist and how conservative they are, a lot of cardiologists generally do not intervene on blockages under 70%. So if you can be medically managed and avoid undergoing another procedure, then that may be a feasible option. Also be sure to discuss if there is any collateral circulation around those blockages, as this may protect you and minimise your immediate need for another angioplasty/stent. But again, ultimately, the decision would be up to you and your cardiologist based on your overall clinical picture.

      Hope this helps.

      Kind regards,

  96. I am almost 70 and consider myself to be in very good physical shape. Before my double bypass surgery I worked as a grounds and maintenace employee using a 20lb hand held weed trimmer walking 5 miles a day easy with a string start pull, a 20lb commercial back pack blower and operated a commercial 60 inch riding mower over very rough gound. I sometimes lift a 5 gallon back pack weed sprayer and spray weed. My cardiologist has given me three months after surgery to return to work. My rehab classes have been delayed as there is no openings until a month before I retun to work. I am begining to think I will not be able to handle this kind of work again. I am walking a lot. and after reading here I plan to incude some stairs. I would appreciate your candid thoughts. Great website, thanks.

    1. Hi James,
      Even if the cardiac rehab is not available until the month before you go back to work, you will definitely want to keep on track and do your own walking and stair climbing exercise (once you have clearance to do so from your cardiologist).

      Once the cardiac rehab becomes available to you, I would still STRONGLY recommend you do it even if only for the final month. The reason is, they can work closely with you to help you develop ongoing strategies for maintaining your fitness and quality of life. To be honest, when it comes to exercise, there isn’t a huge difference between someone who has had open heart surgery and someone who hasn’t. The human body is still the human body. BUT, obviously you will need to make some adjustments to ensure that the exercise is safe and takes into consideration the effects of things like medications you might be prescribed, soreness/stiffness around the sternum, and any other factors which might arise from the surgery. But to be honest, most people tend to do well after their surgery.

      As for the weights you lift at work, you will want to explain this to the cardiac rehab team and they can help you with the transition back into your routine. If they have a weight training set up there, then they could help you build up your strength in preparation for return to work.

      Bottom line:
      1) make sure you have clearance by your cardiologist to get back to exercise (walking and stairs)
      2) do cardiac rehab for sure, even if only for a month
      3) continue to pay attention for any signs and/or symptoms

      Hope this helps. Feel free to stop back with any ongoing questions you might have.

      Kind regards,

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