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Precautions After Angioplasty


An angioplasty is the method used to widen blood vessels that are obstructed by plaque buildup. Plaque is made up of cholesterol and is most commonly associated with atherosclerosis. During an angioplasty, the surgeon places an empty balloon into the narrowed blood vessel and then inflates it so that the balloon compresses the surrounding fatty deposits and this increases blood flow. In some cases a wire mesh tube called a stent is placed within the vessel to prevent future constrictions. The great benefits and low risks of angioplasty have made it the preferred treatment method for obstructed blood vessels.
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Have a lengthy discussion with a cardiothoracic surgeon regarding the required precautions after angioplasty.

Protecting the catheter insertion site is one of the most important precautions after an angioplasty as bleeding and infection are possible complications. A certain amount of bruising is normal but extensive bruising or tearing requires immediate attention. Angioplasty complications are not very common but you should be aware of all the risks so that you can make an informed decision.

Post Surgery Complications:

  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Restenosis (the re-narrowing of the blood vessel)
  • Allergic reaction to the dye used to locate the blockage

Risks:

  • These people may have a higher risk of complications
  • Those with poor cardiac pumping function
  • People who are above 75 years
  • Diabetes or kidney disease patients
  • Those with blood clots or heart disease
  • A post angioplasty care plan should include lifestyle changes such as a heart healthy diet and an exercise plan.

Diet For Angioplasty Patients


A heart healthy diet aids the recovery process after an angioplasty, or any kind of heart surgery for that matter. It is imperative that you adhere to the diet chart after angioplasty provided by your health care provider. It is best to follow a personalized diet plan that includes specific foods for heart patients after angioplasty. Appetite loss is a common side effect of angioplasty so you may need to eat small meals throughout your day. Here are a few heart healthy diet tips that you can discuss with your doctor and nutritionist.
  • Restrict your fat intake with a low fat diet, but don’t eliminate fats altogether. Variety is important.
  • You’ve probably heard all about the importance of including a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables in your daily diet, but be prepared to hear a lot more! 
  • Lean meats like fish and skinless chicken are healthy as long as you have small/medium servings only.
  • A weekly serving of oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and trout can also help considerably.
  • Only consume low fat varieties of milk and yogurt, and avoid egg yolk although egg whites are fine.
  • Drastically reduce your intake of caffeinated products and avoid all alcoholic beverages. 
  • Cut down on your intake of sugar rich refined foods like chocolates, cakes, and biscuits.
  • Cut down on your salt intake - while cooking and in the processed foods you purchase.

Diet Chart After Angioplasty


Given below is an example of a diet chart after angioplasty:

Breakfast:

  • 1 medium sized mixed fruit platter
  • 1 large glass of fresh fruit juice OR
  • 1 glass of blackberry iced tea

Snack:

  • 1 small serving of carrot sticks with a yogurt dip
  • 1 serving of potato in corn chowder (without cream or fat)

Lunch:

  • 1 large serving of tossed salad
  • Baked fish chops 
  • Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Snack:

  • Yogurt berry parfait (use light yogurt) OR
  • Minestrone Soup (without cream)

Dinner:

  • 1 medium serving of beans and rice 
  • 1 small serving of homemade carrot-raisin bread

Methods of preparation also play an important part in a diet plan after a coronary angioplasty. Baking, grilling, roasting, and steaming are a lot healthier as compared to frying. If you must fry your food, use minimal amounts of oil, and use healthier cooking oils like olive oil.

Rest & Recovery:

An angioplasty is a minimally invasive technique but you will still experience some rather unpleasant symptoms after this procedure. It is important to differentiate between symptoms that are part of the healing process and symptoms that could point to possible complications. A certain amount of tiredness and fatigue is normal but weakness and/or fainting can be warning signs. While the catheter insertion site will be a little sore, swelling is almost definitely a sign of infection and you will need to contact your doctor immediately. Shortness of breath and chest pains are serious complaints and require immediate medical attention.

Exercise After Angioplasty


Consult your doctor before you decide on an exercise plan after an angioplasty procedure. You will need to start with mild non-strenuous exercises such as simple yoga exercises. A healthy angioplasty exercise plan will help to reduce your risk of future complications but if your exercise plan is very demanding, it will put unnecessary strain on your weakened circulatory system.
 
Lifestyle Changes:
 
Smokers are advised to quit smoking immediately as smoking slows down the recovery process and increases the risk of complications. In fact, people who continue to smoke for a year after an angioplasty are two times more likely to have a heart attack as compared to people who quit smoking. You can find out more about the effects of smoking after an angioplasty here: http://www.who.int/tobacco/research/heart_disease/en/index.html

Keep a recovery diary and list down all your symptoms as well as their severity levels and discuss this with your doctor. Anxiety and stress can increase your risk of complications so spend a little time in meditation every day.

References:

  1. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/angioplasty/after.html
  2. Romualdo Belardinelli, Ivana Paolini, et al.  Exercise training intervention after coronary angioplasty: the ETICA trial, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 37, Issue 7.
    Paul D. Thompson, MD; The benefits and risks of exercise training in patients with chronic coronary artery disease, J Am Med Assoc, 259.
Submitted on January 16, 2014
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