5 Lifestyle Factors That Affect Wound Healing

John Maynard
Product Manager, Ostomy and Wound Care | Shield HealthCare
03/17/16  10:50 AM PST
Wound Healing

When there are already so many issues to think about when it comes to treating a wound — keeping the wound bed moist, applying the correct dressings and making sure no other trauma comes to the wound — it can be easy to forget the lifestyle factors that can also influence a wound’s healing. Here are five lifestyle factors that can promote or inhibit the wound-healing process:

1. Nutrition

Nutrition is a critical component in wound management, and poor nutrition can place a patient at risk for developing more wounds. According to a study analyzing data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), malnutrition results in impaired wound healing and a four-fold increased risk for pressure ulcer development.  During the healing process, a balanced diet with adequate nutrient intake is essential. Consuming the appropriate number of calories helps your body avoid using protein, which is essential for the rejuvenation of cells. In all, you should target 1 to 1.5 grams of protein/kg of body weight. Foods that are high in zinc, copper, and vitamins A, B, and C can also help to speed up the healing. You may find our article on the Top 5 Nutrients for Wound Healing helpful. Additionally, staying hydrated is vital to promoting cell growth.

2. Hygiene

It is important for both you and the patient to maintain a proper level of hygiene. When changing a dressing or a bandage, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly in order to prevent the spread of bacteria to the wound site, even if you plan on using gloves. To wash hands properly, be sure to use warm to hot water, and rub the soap on the palms, fingers, back of the hand and wrists for a slow count to twenty. If a wound care product is dirty or has already been used, do not use it. Contaminated products can lengthen the recovery time of the wound.

3. Age

Age plays a significant role in the healing of wounds — one’s age has a direct correlation with the time that it takes a wound to heal. As we age, the dermal layer thins, and the elasticity of our skin decreases, increasing the amount of time required to heal. The collagen used to regenerate skin is not created as frequently nor is it as strong as it was years ago. Unfortunately, this is not a factor that can be changed or improved, though many find that keeping a positive outlook on life can help with how they feel age-wise.

4. Medication

Certain medications and treatments also effect wound healing. Steroids interfere with epidermal regeneration and suppress inflammation. They also impair the inflammatory response, leading to a reduction in collagen production and a slow down in healing. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) agents such as aspirin may also be related to a failure of angiogenesis during wound healing. Treatments such as chemotherapy also hinders the healing process, as it is meant to destroy cells. The destruction of cells yields longer healing times.

5. Obesity

Patients who are overweight will likely experience delayed wound healing. Fat (adipose) tissue is poorly vascularized and known to be less tolerant of ischemia (inadequate blood supply) and hypoxia (deficiency in oxygen). This puts the patient at high risk for further skin breakdown. In addition, the workload of the heart in obese patients is strained and chest expansion is impaired, compromising tissue oxygenation. As a result, collagen synthesis is impeded, slowing the wound-healing process.

Whole Picture

In wound management, one must address not just the “hole”; instead you need to look at the whole picture, and lifestyle factors such as nutrition, age, hygiene, medication, and obesity play a large role in the healing process. In order to thrive, cells require a constant supply of oxygen and other nutrients, and a patient’s lifestyle plays a major part in creating the ideal conditions for cellular activity.

For more information, see related articles and resources here:

Recent Wound Care


  1. I would like to hear more from the people that have an ostomy that has to be dealt with on a daily basis. Often times,for the rest of your life.

    1. Hi Glenda! We have lots of information about everyday ostomy care from our Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist, Laura Cox, who has had her ostomy since 2011. Our OstomyLife community has many articles that discuss all aspects of living with an ostomy. Here are our top three most popular articles in that community: How To Clean the Skin Around the Stoma, Medicare Coverage of Ostomy Supplies and Swimming with an Ostomy Video. If you have any specific ostomy questions you don’t see addressed in our community, please Ask Laura! Have a great weekend! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

  2. I’ve had an ostomy since 2007. I live a very active lifestyle. I work outdoors wearing lots of layers and I sweat sometimes and worry the flange will come unstuck, shift and present an odorous and/or leaking situation. I have to always be on guard checking the adhesive is working because it does not always.
    I use drops to limit odor but imagine any leak is bad while at work.
    One more thing, I don’t like change. I used one two piece since 2007 and now the company has discontinued it and I am not happy with the new two piece. I just wished they would have made an improvement not made me try something different when some adhesives can damage your skin (I had to stop using an adapter that gave me a rash years ago).
    Thanks for the opportunity to vent a little.
    Stay Bless and Highly Favored of the Lord.

    1. Hi Pamela! Thanks for your comment. We’re glad we’re here for you to vent a little to! With regards to your worries about the flange becoming unstuck when you’re sweating, we wanted to ask if you’ve checked out the Coloplast Brava® Elastic Barrier Strips (or a similar product). They might just give you a little more peace of mind while you’re outdoors. We’re glad you found us. Be sure to check out our OstomyLife community for other tips or advice that you may find helpful. Thanks! -Aimee, Shield HealthCare

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