Each year in the U.S., there are 35 million hospital stays, with an average length of stay of 4.6 days. Whether from a planned surgery to an unplanned sickness, recovering after a hospital visit can feel like it takes longer to feel like ourselves. The good news is that with the right strategies you can support a strong recovery.
Here are expert answers to four common questions that will help you do just that.
1. What should I eat if I'm trying to get back on my feet?
No matter how big or small the procedure, surgery inflicts trauma on your body. Recovery time depends on the type of surgery you had, but even then, it's variable how long it'll be before you can resume normal activities.
Good nutrition can play a key role in helping you regain strength and heal after surgery.
If you invest in good nutrition now, you can give your body a "nutritional reserve" if you have a health setback. Jacqueline Boff, Ph.D., MBA, a research scientist at Abbott, recommends eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats. Specifically, make sure you're consuming:
2. How can I support muscle health?
Your muscles are a critical source for strength and energy as you recover. When you're sick or hospitalized, your body often doesn't get enough of the nutrients it needs to recover, such as protein, causing it to break down muscle tissue. This kind of muscle loss is associated with delayed recovery from illness, slowed wound healing, and diminished quality of life.
In addition to a balanced diet with plenty of protein, you can also consider adding HMB to your diet. HMB or beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate is a substance that supports muscle health. HMB is naturally produced by your body when it breaks down leucine, an amino acid found in protein-rich foods.
"However, HMB naturally declines in the body as we age," Boff said. "It’s important to be proactive about muscle health as we age and consume enough protein to support muscles, and when needed, add HMB supplements.”
HMB can be found in small amounts in avocado, citrus fruit, catfish and in nutrition supplements.
3. Why is water critical for recovery?
Nearly 60% of adult bodies are water. And it should come as no surprise that water is essential for keeping us functioning well and feeling our best.
Water helps keep your blood flowing, carries nutrients and oxygen to your cells and protects your joints. As your body recovers from an illness or injury, it sends water and nutrients to that location. If you're not replenishing those fluids, the wound healing and cell repair processes take longer, ultimately hindering your recovery.
In addition to drinking water, food choices can account for approximately 20% of your daily fluid intake. Turn to foods like melons, tomatoes, and strawberries, which are naturally rich in water and electrolytes and critical to healthy nerve and muscle function as you recover.
4. What about exercise?
The last step to getting back on your feet? Just that! Light activities like resistance training, daily walks, stretching, or yoga can be hugely beneficial, especially if you're feeling fatigued after a procedure or sickness. Be sure to work with your physician to determine what's best for you.
Keeping your whole body strong and healthy year-round means you can maintain your independence at any age, even if you're recovering from an illness, injury, or surgery. Remember, it's never too late to live your best life – no matter what life brings you.
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