View navigation


Your health before surgery

It is important to think about how you can be as healthy and fit as possible before surgery.

No smokingSmoking

Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and increases the risk of breathing and heart problems during and after your surgery. Smoking also interferes with wound healing and on average smokers stay longer in hospital. If you smoke, you should give up before your surgery.

If you need help to stop smoking please use the services below:

NHS North Yorkshire Stop Smoking Service: 0300 303 1603
NHS Smoking Helpline: 0800 169 0169.
Alternatively speak to your GP or local Pharmacist for help.

Patient 4cYour Weight

Being very overweight increases the risks of your operation and is associated with chest infections, breathing difficulties, blood clots, wound infections and poor wound healing.

The standard way to assess your weight is through the use of body mass index. This will be calculated at preassessment or you can use the NHS calculator to see what it is here. An ideal BMI is 18.5-24.9kg/m2.

If your BMI is above the normal range then there is plenty you can do. This includes:

  • Exercising to build up your strength. This includes things you may not think of as exercising such as walking to the shops and taking the steps instead of a lift.
  • Losing weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Controlling your blood sugar if you are diabetic

Being underweight can also cause problems in the perioperative period. If you have been unwell you may have lost your appetite and your body may not be getting the nourishment it requires. If this is the case you may be seen by a dietician. If they have advised you to follow a special diet please check with them before following the advice here.  They may supply you with nutritional supplements to take prior to surgery.

If you are underweight you can:

  • Eat food that is as nourishing as possible. The aim is to get in nutrients so the usual advice of having low fat and low sugar does not always apply.
  • Eat regularly. Three meals and three snacks a day is normal.
  • Milk based drinks rather than fizzy drinks are advised. You can get over the counter supplement drinks. Other nourishing drinks include milkshakes, honey malt, orange juice and soup.
  • Snacks that you might want to consider include cheese with crackers, sausage rolls, full fat yoghurt and dried fruit.

If you are a York or Scarborough Hospital Patient and need more information please contact the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics:

York Hospital: 01904 725 269.
Scarborough: 01723 342 415


The NHS recommends that men and women should not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. If you regularly drink 14 units a week you should spread your drinking out over three or more days. Cutting down alcohol intake prior to surgery is advisable. For more advice on cutting down please click here.

If you drink excessively or use drugs it is very imporant to tell one of our health care professionals so that we can help keep you safe during your stay. There is a Substance Misuse Liaison Service at the hospital and a number of other help lines where you can get more help:

The Substance Misuse Liaison Service: York Hospital Service
Telephone: 01904 726559

Drink line: free confidential helpline
Telephone number: 0800776600


Blood bag dAnaemia

Anaemia is a condition where there are low levels of red blood cells in the blood. Having a good level of red blood cells and iron in the blood is important for healing and recovery after surgery. Treating anaemia can take several weeks so it is important that your anaemia is identified as soon as possible. If you are found to be anaemic we may treat you in the following ways:

  1. Iron tablets
  2. Iron infusion into the vein
  3. A blood transfusion (less commonly)

Keeping active

Medical research has shown that the fitter you are prior to surgery the quicker your recovery and the more likely you are to survive. This means that being active in the lead up to your surgery can have long lasting positive effects. Activity can be anything that raises your heart rate and gets you a little out of puff. The World Health Organisation reccomends thirty minutes of exercise five times a week for all adults. This may well not be possible but anything you can do to increase your activity levels in the run up to surgery would be beneficial. If there is any reason not to exercise prior to surgery your surgeon will advise on this, however this is rarely the case.

Types of activity include but are not limited to:

  • Going for a walk
  • Carrying your shopping home
  • Gardening
  • Climbing stairs instead of taking the lift
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Yoga

Whatever your normal activity level is, try to double it in the weeks preceeding your surgery. 

For more information on getting active locally see the York Council website and the Royal College of Anaesthetists here.


If your are diabetic, controlling your blood sugars is vitally important before your operation. Poorly controlled diabetes can cause delayed wound healing and complications after surgery. In some cases, poorly controlled diabetes may cause your surgery to be delayed.

More information can be found at the Your Diabetes website.