How long does it take to recover after angioplasty/stenting?
It generally takes most people a couple of weeks to start returning to their normal activities after angioplasty/stenting. Before you leave hospital, you’ll be given detailed instructions for exercise, medications, follow-up appointments, ongoing wound care and resuming normal activities.
You’ll also be encouraged to book into a cardiac rehabilitation program, which is a dedicated program that helps to support you, every step of the way, as you heal, recover and get back to your everyday routine. To find out more about cardiac rehabilitation, watch this short video.
It’s very common to feel ‘different’ for a short while after your coronary angioplasty/stenting procedure. To hear from our social worker about some of the emotional changes you may experience during your recovery, watch this short video.
What should I eat after angioplasty/stenting?
After your angioplasty/stenting, you should focus on eating a healthy diet. This will help your body to heal, reduce your risk of complications and enable you to recover well. A healthy diet will also reduce the risk of plaque building up in your arteries again. Many studies have shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds can reduce your risk of heart disease.
A healthy diet provides your body with plenty of heart-protective nutrients - like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre. Ideally, your diet should include:
- Meat - and/or meat alternatives such as eggs, tofu, legumes and nuts
- Fish - 2 serves of oily fish per week such as salmon, mackerel or sardines will help you get plenty of heart healthy omega-3 fats
- Wholegrains - good wholegrain choices include wholemeal or wholegrain bread or crackers, brown rice, wholemeal pasta, quinoa, freekah, barley, rye, rolled oats, polenta and couscous
- Dairy - preferably low fat
- Healthy fats - a small amount of healthy fats and oils from nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish
- Water - avoid sugary soft drinks and drink alcohol only in moderation
Aim to consume 2 serves of fruit, 5 serves of vegetables and 4 or more serves of wholegrains - depending on your energy needs. Some other tips to help you eat well include:
- Reduce your salt intake - use as little salt as possible when cooking as this will help to lower your blood pressure and help prevent fluid retention
- Avoid sugary foods - these are often eaten in place of healthy foods and can contribute to weight gain
Learn more healthy eating tips from our dietitian in this video.
What medications will I need to take after angioplasty/stenting?
After angioplasty/stenting, you’ll be given medicines to lower your risk of complications and a further cardiac event. Medications work best when you’re being healthy in all areas of your life - for example, exercising, quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet. Generally, you’ll be given one or more of the following types of medications:
- Antiplatelets – these medications help to stop blood clots from forming inside the stent and prevent heart attack, stroke, or other problems with your heart
- Statins (lipid lowering medications) – statins control your blood levels of cholesterol, and large studies have shown that they can reduce the risk of blood vessel diseases, heart attacks and stroke
- Blood pressure medications – if you have pre-existing heart conditions (eg hypertension, myocardial infarction or heart failure) you may need to take Beta Blockers and/or ACE Inhibitors, which are medications that help control high blood pressure and prevent angina and heart attacks
You can learn more about the medications following coronary angioplasty/stenting from our pharmacist in this video.
As you’re taking medication to prevent clots from forming inside your stent, your blood will be thinner than it was before your surgery. As a result, there are some things you’ll now need to be aware of:
- You may notice that you will bruise easier
- Any cuts to the skin will bleed longer
- If your work or hobby involves the use of sharp objects, you should wear protective clothing
Everyone has individual requirements for medications, and you’ll be given a personalised medicine plan that’s right for you. If you have any questions about the medication you’re taking, speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
How do I reduce my risk of further heart problems after coronary angioplasty/stenting?
After your angioplasty/stenting procedure, it’s very important to take steps to reduce your risk of having another heart problem. Some of the risk factors for heart disease that you may be able to control include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Social Isolation
- Smoking. You can learn tips for quitting smoking by watching this short video.
You can find out more from our cardiac rehabilitation nurse about coronary heart disease risk factors - both modifiable and non-modifiable - in this short video.
You may need follow-up tests, such as blood tests, echocardiograms and chest X-rays, throughout the first year after your stent surgery. Sometimes, you could feel a type of discomfort, localised to your chest, which feels sharp and niggling. These feelings may come and go. They’re thought to be caused by the angioplasty/stenting procedure and aren’t an emergency. This will feel different to the chest discomfort that brought you into hospital. You can learn more about different types chest discomfort here. If you’re experiencing these sensations, speak to your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team.
If you do experience chest pain that lasts longer for 10 minutes and feels like the type of pain that brought you into hospital previously, call an ambulance (call 000) and go immediately to your closest hospital emergency department.
How do I resume my regular activities after coronary angioplasty/stenting?
As you recover from your angioplasty/stenting, you’ll need to ease back into your regular activities slowly.
- Driving – if you have not had a heart attack, you can resume driving as soon as 2 days after your surgery. If you have had a heart attack, though, you will need to discuss with your doctor when you can resume driving. Also, if you drive a commercial vehicle, including a taxi, you won’t be able to drive for 4 weeks and will need clearance from your doctor
- Heavy lifting - it’s best to avoid lifting objects heavier than 5kg for 1 week. If any work or leisure activities involve heavy physical activity, discuss these with your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team
- Travelling - Metal detectors used in airports and other screening areas don't affect stents. Your stent won’t cause metal detectors to go off
How do I start exercising again after coronary angioplasty/stenting?
Exercising will help to speed up your recovery, and it’s a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise increases your fitness levels, helps control blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, and keep you relaxed. Start with short and simple walks, and gradually increase length and intensity.
You can walk as much as you like as long as you feel comfortable, and daily walking - if only for a few minutes - is ideal. If you have any questions about your exercise program, ask your physiotherapist or occupational therapist.
To learn more from our physiotherapist about exercise, watch this short video.
Where can I go for ongoing support after coronary angioplasty/stenting?
After you leave hospital, your cardiac rehabilitation team will be available for ongoing support as you recover. You can also contact the following organisations for support and advice:
- National Heart Foundation: (02) 9211 5188
- Heartline: 1300 362 787
- Australian Nutrition Foundation: (02) 9516 8191
Remember, you are not alone in this. Your healthcare team and support network are there for you, to help you recover as best you can - so you can go on to live a healthy, fulfilling and active life for many years to come.