When you first find out that you need a heart valve replacement, recovery might seem to be a long way off. But as you wait for your operation to come around, it’s time to start mentally preparing yourself for what comes after that. If you have the choice between ‘passive’ or ‘active’ recovery, which one sounds like the more attractive option? Psychologically and physically, active recovery wins hands down, from simply getting up and about to starting to exercise. Here are seven reasons to set goals for active recovery from heart valve surgery…

  1. Having a plan makes you feel in control

Lots of people experience a low mood after heart valve replacement surgery. In fact, up to a quarter of people who’ve had some kind of heart surgery experience what’s known as ‘cardiac depression.’ Feeling sad or empty after surgery can be triggered by having to deal with the unknown or feeling overly tired after completing even simple tasks. In this situation, maintaining a positive attitude can help you to heal more quickly; taking charge of your own recovery and setting goals can form part of that outlook.

  1. An exercise regime will help stabilise your mood

The endorphins that are released when you exercise are a natural way to steady and lift your mood. Whether you’ve only very recently had surgery or you’re further along the path to recovery, doing what you can, subject to medical advice, will make you feel much better than doing nothing.

  1. Active recovery milestones keep you looking forwards

Achievable milestones help to break up what can seem like a never-ending recovery process. Having small milestones to focus on creates a roadmap that will help you to recognise your progress, from the early stages of being able to sit up and get dressed, to moving on to more strenuous activities. Take a look at our infographic to start thinking about the milestones you can aim for during the recovery period.

  1. Setting goals can help you build a social network

It may be many years since you’ve taken part in any form of organised exercise, and perhaps you’ve forgotten the sense of camaraderie and fun that comes with group activities. Major surgery can feel like a very isolating experience, even with family and friends around you. Finding an exercise class that’s at the right level, then setting goals to turn up to each session and push yourself that little bit further as you recover will not only get you fit, but will also help you to build connections with new friends who may be in a similar situation.

  1. Realistic targets help to manage your expectations

If you’re the sort of person who wants everything to happen right now, you may need to get tough with yourself and firmly adjust your expectations. There’s no point in wasting energy feeling frustrated: set achievable goals and give yourself the recognition that’s due when you reach them. This might feel like ‘baby steps,’ but it’s important to accept that you’re aiming for gradual recovery following your op, rather than bouncing back.

  1. People around you can understand what’s possible

Not everyone in your circle – whether family, friends or colleagues – will take the time to read up on heart valve replacement, so you may have to educate them on what you’ll be able to do, and by when. Setting goals means that you can put everyone else in the picture, manage unreasonable requests or suggestions, and make it easier for others to support you with aftercare. For example, if your family is desperate to take you on holiday, having a timeline of when that could happen will give everyone a better idea of where you’re at right now and what’s likely to be feasible.

  1. Other aspects of your health will benefit

Bringing yourself back to a good level of fitness not only gives your surgery the best chance of success. It improves your overall quality of life, now and in the future, by combatting high cholesterol, reducing high blood pressure, bringing your weight down and having a positive effect on your wellbeing overall, including your mental health.

Ready to set some goals for active recovery? Why not put one on your Active Patients’ heart-hug cushion so you can focus on your future, fulfilling active life.

Details of how to order your cushion can be found here.

Here’s an infographic to help set your goals..