12 Things You Need to Do If You've Just Had a Heart Attack

It's easy to feel out of control when a heart attack strikes. So, how best should you handle this situation when you're recovering from a heart attack? Following these doctor-recommended tips will strengthen your heart and reclaim your health. 
heart attack

1. You have the power to improve

Patients have a great opportunity to take control of their cardiac health after a heart attack thanks to advancements in medications and technologies. By sticking to certain lifestyle changes and following the medicines prescribed by your doctor, you can significantly lower your chances of a second heart attack or stroke. 

2. Find out what triggered your heart attack

While it's not always possible to know what caused a heart attack, most of the time, lifestyle factors tend to be the culprit. A heart attack is not always caused by high cholesterol levels or hypertension, it could be triggered by a smoking habit. For this reason, it is highly advised that you quit smoking. Doctors place smoking at the top of their to-do list for patients who have had a heart attack. In fact, not giving up smoking after a heart attack may likely cause you to have another heart attack, or possibly die from one. Thankfully, today, there are many medications that can help you quit smoking for good. 

3. Understand all your medications

Once you've had a heart attack, your physician will likely prescribe a number of medications for you to take, in which case, it is important to know what the side effects are. But, popping a pill is not enough. Part of the healing process includes a number of lifestyle changes including losing weight, exercising among other things. More and more evidence shows that lifestyle changes are probably more important than the medical interventions.


4. Enroll in rehab

Attending a supervised program of exercise and lifestyle changes is key to reducing your risk of a repeat heart attack. If a rehabilitation process is not provided to you at the hospital, ask your physician how you may enroll in one. Furthermore, if you're unable to physically attend a program, it is possible to do so virtually in which you would sign up for text messages from the program to receive reminders about daily exercise and dietary changes. 

heart attack

5. Graze on more fruits and veggies

A heart-healthy diet prioritizes fruits and vegetables and includes low-fat dairy products as well as whole-grain foods. A Mediterranean diet which is loaded with produce and fish is believed to significantly lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. The study also suggests that eating more healthy food is more important than cutting out unhealthy ones. 


6. Limit calories

One of the many ways to control your blood pressure is to maintain a healthy weight. Bear in mind that the goal is weight management and not weight loss, and for this reason, limiting calories should become a part of your lifestyle change, not a temporary 3- to 6- month diet to lose weight which you will put back on. Aim to reduce your portions significantly as much as possible. 

7. Be active

Exercise is essential, after all, the heart is a muscle. And if you don't use muscles, they don't stay strong. So, the only way to use the heart is to make it work, and you do that through exercise. Of course, this doesn't mean that you need to go to the gym several times a week. Any activity that makes your heart beat faster will do. This could be a brisk walk around the block or taking the stairs at work. 

8. Take care of your gums

A link between heart disease and oral health. It has been found that bacteria that causes gum disease may spread throughout the rest of the body, increasing inflammation that can worsen a whole range of conditions. So keep your gums healthy with routine brushing, flossing, and visits to your dentist.

heart attack

9. Manage stress

Because stress is associated with high blood pressure, it's very important to find the right ways to cope. Instead of relieving anxiety by reaching for a drink or lighting a cigarette, turn to relaxing breathing exercises or meditation. 

10. Keep your follow-up appointments

While for some people it can be challenging to get to the doctor, attending your follow-up appointments is key to maintaining long-term health. These appointments can help your doctors stay on top of your condition and your recovery, monitoring your treatment plan. 

11. Post-heart attack depression is normal—and treatable

If after a heart attack you feel as though you've lost interest in things you used to love, are avoiding friends and family, or you feel moody, it may indicate depression. It's important for someone who's had a heart attack to understand that depression is common and treatable. Sometimes, all it requires is temporary, short-term care, be it medication or talk therapy to help you get past it. 

12. Manage stress

Stress is a cause of high blood pressure and for this reason, it is important to find the right ways to cope. Try to find a way to relax with breathing exercises or meditation, as opposed to reaching for a drink or lighting a cigarette.  

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