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Diet and Nutrition

Loss of appetite 6 months after heart surgery

08/04/1998

Question:

How does one deal with the continuous loss of weight (30%)after heart by-pass. After 6 months of recouperation, slow weight loss even after taking Ensure...said

Answer:

Weight loss after a major surgery or illness is a relatively common occurrence. The weight lost represents not only a decrease in fat stores, but oftentimes a loss of protein and muscle as well. A healthy diet is essential to aiding recovery and helping the body to rebuild it's protein stores. Many individuals following a prudent diet regain some of their lost weight after recovery, but some individuals never attain their former weight.

Following cardiovascular surgery, dietary changes are often needed to prevent the recurrence and progression of atherosclerosis. Most physicians and dieticians recommend a low fat diet as a foundation for a heart-healthy diet. Many individuals following this type of healthy diet eat fewer calories than they consumed prior to their surgery or illness. As a result, some people will lose weight on their recommended diet. For these individuals, weight loss can be a sign of improving health.

A decreased appetite is common following surgery. There are many factors which might be affecting your appetite. Some of them, such as depression (common after major surgery) and medications, can be readily addressed by your doctor.

A consultation with a dietician may be very helpful for you. A dietician can evaluate your calories needs and can determine whether the foods you are currently eating provide enough calories and essential nutrients. A dietician can also help you develop dietary habits to promote a reduction in cholesterol and keep blood pressure and blood glucose at healthy levels.

Without knowing more about your specific health, it is difficult to determine whether or not your failure to regain your pre-surgery weight is the result of poor nutrition or ongoing illness. I strongly urge you to talk to your doctor soon about your lack of appetite and weight loss.

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Response by:

Jill Foster, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati