Living Well After a Heart Attack
A heart attack is a life-changing event that often leaves survivors feeling confused and overwhelmed about how to live the rest of their lives. The American Heart Association estimates that 20 percent of patients age 45 and older will have another heart attack within five years of their first heart attack. It’s imperative to make prevention a priority by making simple lifestyle changes that can complement a medical treatment plan.
If you’re a heart attack survivor, here are five things you can do to decrease your risk of another heart attack.
Take medications as prescribed
Certain medications can greatly lower your risk of another heart attack. Many patients are prescribed beta blocker medications such as Metoprolol or Propranolol for at least six months after their heart attack. Beta blockers relieve stress on the heart by slowing the heartbeat and reducing the force with which the heart muscle contracts. Talk with your personal doctor regarding your individual health needs and if a beta blocker and/or other medications might be best for you.
Attend all follow-up appointments with your personal doctor or cardiologists
They will work with you to develop an effective treatment plan. It’s important for you and your doctor(s) to keep track of your progress and identify and address any problems early. In addition, your doctor(s) will work with you and your family to develop a life-long treatment plan to maximize your health.
Participate in cardiac rehabilitation
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program designed to help you recover after a heart attack. You are usually referred to a rehabilitation program by you cardiologist. A specialized team will work with you to improve and maintain your health by providing exercise counseling and training, heart healthy nutrition education and stress counseling.
Important heart attack risk factors to manage
- High blood pressure – Set your target blood pressure under 140/90 (under 130/90 for diabetics), take medications as prescribed, have your blood pressure taken and recorded regularly and report your blood pressure values to your doctor.
- High cholesterol – Make healthy food choices, exercise as outline in your cardiac rehab recommendations, take medications as prescribed and have your lipid levels monitored by your doctor.
- Diabetes – If you have diabetes, develop a diabetes management plan with your personal doctor and effectively manage your diabetes and report any concerns or new symptoms to the doctor as soon as possible.
- Smoking – Consult with your doctor to develop a plan to quit smoking, there are free resources like smokefree.gov that can help you prepare to quit.
- Food choices – Consult with a dietician/nutritionist to assist in developing a healthy eating plan.
- Physical Activity – Develop an activity plan with the cardiac rehab team to meet your specific situation. When it comes to heart health, aerobic exercise is best. Examples include bicycling, jogging and walking at a moderate to brisk pace.
Many people feel scared, overwhelmed and confused after a heart attack. Family and friends can provide an excellent source of support. There are also area support groups comprised of people who have been affected by a heart attack. These groups can help with effectively working through your recovery. Here are some groups to consider.
- WomenHeart of Wisconsin – A support group that meets monthly for women living with heart disease
- The American Heart Association support network which offers a place for help with emotional recovery
- Facebook has heart attack support groups for survivors. Browse the “groups” area to find them.
- Ask your personal doctor about support groups in the area