Many medical conditions can affect recovery from surgery. It is important to make sure any known conditions are controlled as well as possible ahead of your surgery.
You can also book in for a general NHS health check at your GP surgery if you are between 40 and 74 years old.
Good control of your blood sugar is really important to reduce your risk of infections after surgery. If your blood sugar readings or HbA1c measurement (a blood test that checks your longer term diabetic control) is high, you may benefit from changes to your medication or diet.
Think also about your diet and weight. Your diabetic control will improve if you lose weight. For patients with type 2 diabetes, with or without obesity, a Mediterranean or a low carbohydrate diet can be helpful. More information on diabetes and diet can be found here.
If you haven’t had your HbA1c checked in the past six months, you can request a test at your GP surgery. If needed, the team can recommend any changes well ahead of the operation. This will reduce the risk of your surgery being delayed.
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Blood pressure should be controlled to safe levels to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Sometimes operations may be delayed if it is too high. If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked in the last year, or you know your blood pressure is poorly controlled, ask for a check at your surgery well ahead of your operation. Some pharmacies also offer blood pressure checks.
If you have, or borrow, a blood pressure machine you can let your GP surgery know the result. Some GP surgeries have automated machines and you may not need to make an appointment to use these.
If your blood pressure is high, your GP can check your medications and make any changes needed ahead of the operation.
Lifestyle changes can help control and reduce high blood pressure. You can find more information here.
Anaemia (low levels of iron in the blood)
Treating your anaemia before surgery reduces the chance of you needing a blood transfusion. It will also help your recovery and make you feel less tired after your surgery.
One third of adults having major surgery are anaemic. If you have been bleeding or if you have a long-term condition, request a blood test at your GPs to check whether you are anaemic.
Anaemia should be diagnosed as early as possible for the treatment to be effective. If you are concerned that you might be anaemic, you should talk to your GP, pharmacist or surgical team about treatment to improve your blood count well ahead of the surgery.
Many people have iron deficiency anaemia and a diet consisting of iron rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables, meat and nuts, can help. Some people also need more vitamin B12 and folate:
- iron is found in: red meat, beans and nuts
- vitamin B12 is found in: meat, fish, cheese or eggs
- folate is found in: green leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, brown rice and liver.
If picked up early, anaemia is usually treated with iron tablets and an iron rich diet. In some cases you may be offered a dose of intravenous iron given through an infusion directly into your veins. This works more quickly than tablets, but there are some additional risks. An infusion is usually offered if the surgery cannot be delayed.
Heart, lung and other medical problems
If you have any other long-term medical problems, consider asking your GP surgery for a review of your medications, especially if you think your health is not as good as it could be.
Anxiety and mental health
Most people feel some anxiety about having surgery. If the thought of going into hospital is making you very anxious or upset, it may be helpful to talk about your concerns with your GP. In some areas, GPs can refer you for specific support.
You find out more information about how to manage anxiety before an operation here.
Many techniques including mindfulness, relaxation, breathing exercises or yoga can help you relax before and after your surgery.
If you are taking medication for your mental health, it is important to let the team at the hospital know about this during your preoperative assessment. They will usually ask you to continue this medication throughout your hospital stay. It is important to take it to the hospital with you. They can also help organise any specific support you might need for your time in hospital or return home.
You can find more information and support at NHS Better Health – every mind matters.
If you have loose teeth or crowns, a visit to the dentist may reduce the risk of damage to your teeth during an operation.
It’s also important to have good dental hygiene and for your teeth and gums to be in good condition before the surgery, as this will reduce the risk of infection.