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Living with - Coronary artery bypass graft

A coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) is not a cure for heart disease. It's important for you to have a healthy lifestyle.

You should keep taking any prescribed medicines after the operation. This is to reduce your risk of getting heart problems in the future.

Healthy lifestyle

There are some lifestyle changes you can make after having a coronary artery bypass graft to help lower your risk of further heart problems.

These include:

Healthy diet

An unhealthy diet can increase your chances of developing heart problems after a coronary artery bypass graft. To lower this risk, you should make sure your diet is low in saturated fat and salt, but high in fibre and omega-3. This is a fatty acid that can help reduce your cholesterol levels.

Examples of foods you should try to avoid include:

  • sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • butter
  • cream
  • cakes and biscuits

Instead, you should try to eat:

  • starchy foods, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta
  • fruit and vegetables – ideally five portions a day
  • oily fish, such as mackerel and sardines

Also, cut down on the amount of salt you add to your food. Check the nutrition labels on food when shopping to find products with the lowest levels of salt.

Healthy eating, active living

Exercise regularly

When you've fully recovered from the effects of surgery, you should exercise regularly. This will reduce your risk of developing further heart problems.

Adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Moderate-intensity means an activity that's strenuous enough to leave you slightly breathless.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include:

  • fast walking
  • cycling on level ground or with few hills
  • doubles tennis
  • pushing a lawn mower
  • hiking

If you find it difficult to achieve 150 minutes of activity a week, start at a level you feel comfortable with. For example, this could be around 10 minutes of light exercise a day. Increase the duration and intensity of your activity as your fitness starts to improve.

Lose weight

You can reduce your risk of further heart problems by trying to reach a healthy weight. To find out whether you need to lose weight you can use the BMI healthy weight calculator.

Calculate your BMI -

The best way to lose weight is to make sure you have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. You may find it helpful to follow a structured weight loss programme.

Find out more about getting active

Stop smoking

Smoking can increase your risk of developing heart problems. Smoking narrows your arteries and raises your blood pressure.

If you want to stop smoking, your GP will be able to refer you to the HSE Stop Smoking support programme. This programme will give you dedicated help and advice about the best ways to give up smoking.

You can also call the Stop Smoking support programme on freephone: 1800 201 203. Trained staff will offer you free expert advice and encouragement.

Your GP can prescribe medicine to help with withdrawal symptoms you may get after giving up smoking.

Get help to give up smoking

Moderate your alcohol consumption

If you drink alcohol, do not exceed the recommended limits.

Men are advised not to drink more than 17 units a week. Women should not drink more than 11 units.

One unit of alcohol is roughly half a pint of normal-strength beer or a single measure of spirits. A bottle of wine at 12.5% alcohol contains about 7 standard drinks.

Going over the recommended alcohol limits can raise your blood pressure and cholesterol level. This could increase your risk of heart problems.

Tips for drinking less

Taking medicine

You'll probably need to take fewer medicines after having a coronary artery bypass graft. But you may still need to take some to reduce your risk of further problems.

Some of the medicines you may be prescribed include:

Anticoagulants and antiplatelets

Anticoagulants and antiplatelets are medicines that reduce the risk of blood clots forming.

Examples of these medicines include:

  • low-dose aspirin
  • clopidogrel
  • warfarin

You may be prescribed one of these medicines to take for a few months, or for the foreseeable future.

It's important to take these medicines. They can reduce your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks.


Statins are a type of medicine used to lower your blood cholesterol level.

This will help prevent further damage to your coronary arteries. It should also reduce your risk of problems such as heart attacks.

Examples of statins include:

  • atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • fluvastatin (Lescol)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)

In most cases, treatment with statins will be recommended for life.

Other medications

You may also be prescribed some other medicines. These will depend on the specific reason why you had a coronary artery bypass graft.

These could be beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 10 August 2021
Next review due: 10 October 2024