Heart transplant patients will likely be well prepared by their doctor for surgery and recovery, but there are a few tips that are particularly important to keep in mind. The most important detail during recovery is to keep the body from rejecting the heart, which is why patients are often required to take steps to avoid infection, including frequent hand washing and regular doctor appointments. Another detail of life after a heart transplant is regular exercise, as patients are encouraged to work out, but should first consult their doctor. Finally, a good diet low in fat and sodium can typically improve the chances of staying healthy after an organ transplant.
One of the more common complications of a heart transplant is the body rejecting the organ, which is why heart transplant patients are usually given several medications to take everyday. The point of these drugs is often to lower the immune system so that the body refrains from rejecting the new organ, which may lead to frequent infections. Patients are encouraged to take the same precautions as most people to avoid getting sick, such as washing the hands frequently, and staying away from others who are ill. Additionally, heart transplant patients are often advised to avoid swimming in water that is not chlorinated, refrain from touching certain animals known for carrying disease, and keeping all doctor appointments.
Most heart transplant patients are advised to add regular exercise to their schedule so that the heart remains healthy and excess weight is not gained. Of course, patients often need some time to get used to working out with the new heart. This is because many of the original heart's nerves are not reattached to the new heart during surgery, which causes a delay in the brain getting the signal that the body needs extra oxygen during a workout. This can lead to lightheadedness when standing up too fast, not to mention dizziness and a faster heart rate than previously while working out. Patients may further understand the changes to the heart in relation to exercise after talking to a doctor.
A good diet is a major component of staying healthy, especially for heart transplant patients. Most are advised to follow a low-sodium diet that is also low in fat, as this is a good way to keep the heart from having to work overtime. This dietary change can also reduce the risks of developing hypertension, fluid retention, and heart disease, and should typically be implemented months before the transplant surgery for the best chances of heart health afterward.