If you've already had a heart attack, you're at increased risk for another. But with a few smart moves you can reduce that risk. Many heart patients have mistaken ideas about what's good for them.
If your uncle had a heart attack even after a lifetime of eating low-fat foods and jogging every day, you may think changing your own lifestyle is not worth the trouble. Or your friend the construction worker may have given up his job after a heart attack, so you assume you'll need to give up your job, too. Don't count on it. Work with your healthcare provider to learn what's best for you. Everyone has different genetics and different risks unique to their own lifestyle. It's important to work with your healthcare provider, friends, and family to understand and develop a plan that is right for you. Sticking to your plan is the best way to prevent a heart attack or other heart problem.
Learning to eat better may seem like the challenge of a lifetime. Or you may need to give up cigarettes or other tobacco products, or make time for regular exercise. But these are some of the best things you can do for a happier, healthier future.
Here are important steps that can help you prevent a second heart attack:
Quit smoking. Don't use other tobacco products such as chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes.
Exercise regularly. Ask your healthcare provider what kinds of exercise to do and how often to exercise.
Eat a healthy diet low in fat and calories.
Control your weight.
Manage your blood pressure.
Manage your stress.
Control your cholesterol levels.
Control diabetes or any other blood sugar problems.
Visit your healthcare provider regularly to make sure you are on track.
Take action to reduce the stress in your life where you can.
You may have lost your healthy self-image or the ability to do important things in your life. Any major life change will bring feelings of loss. You may need to grieve.
You and your family may need to work through a variety of emotions after your heart attack. Keep in mind that doing so leads to a positive, constructive future. It also helps you stick to a healthy lifestyle.
If you are overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, grief, or depression, seek help from a mental health provider. Many support groups may help you work through your emotions knowing you are not alone. Attending a support group may also help you cope with grief or depression.
Don't stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider. Work with your provider to find out what your choices are and what these medicines can do for you. Talk about the risks and benefits of the medicines. Ask for help in choosing the ones that:
Work the best for you
Have the fewest side effects
You'll be comfortable taking
Fit with your daily schedule
Will have the fewest interactions with other medicines you may take
Think about it: If you quit smoking and everyone else in the family quits as a result, you'll be helping everyone. Don't be afraid to make a big deal about your attempts at a healthy lifestyle. Ask your loved ones to give you as much support as possible. Sometimes leading by example is a good way to create a new lifestyle for yourself and your family.
In many cases, the treatments healthcare providers relied on just a few years ago already are considered outdated. There have been dramatic changes in medicines and procedures. Stay up-to-date with regular visits to your healthcare team.
Maybe you're worried it will overstress your heart, but regular exercise actually may be one of the best things you can do for your heart. It's important for someone who's already had a heart attack to exercise correctly under the advice of a healthcare team. Get an exercise prescription designed just for you, based on your physical condition and your needs and interests. Exercise can help you control risks related to weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. One excellent way to get started is to take part in a cardiac rehab program.
Your healthcare provider is your greatest ally. Your provider wants to partner in your care. Don't hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns.