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What to Do After Surviving a Heart Attack

The Aftermath of a Heart Attack

A heart attack is a life-threatening medical condition in which the
blood flowing to the heart suddenly stops. Damage to surrounding tissues occurs
immediately. Surviving a heart attack ultimately depends on the severity of the
condition, as well as how quickly it is treated.

You will need to be treated for coronary heart disease after you survive
a heart attack. Adherence to the correct
form of treatment may help prevent future heart attacks. The thought of another
heart attack is a frightening prospect. Knowing what to do after surviving one
can significantly reduce the odds of suffering from another attack.

Take It Easy Until Your Doctor Says So

A heart attack is a life-threatening event — you are lucky to have
survived such a serious medical event. You might start feeling better within a
couple of weeks, but it’s crucial that you avoid pushing yourself too soon. It
may take up to three months before your doctor gives you consent to go back to
work.

Ease back gradually into your everyday routine so you don’t risk a
relapse. You may have to modify your daily activities if they are stressful. Your
doctor will likely advise you to hold off on sex and other physical activities
for at least two weeks.

Clarify Any Questions About Medications

Medications are just one part of a typical post-heart attack treatment
plan. The medications your doctor prescribes you will be based on how much your
heart tissue was damaged as well as your other risk factors. Your doctor might
prescribe drugs for

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • high cholesterol
  • chest pain
  • diabetes
  • weight loss
  • overall discomfort

Enter Cardiac Rehab

You will need to enter a cardiac rehabilitation program as well. These
programs are run by doctors and other medical professionals, and are designed
to monitor your condition and recovery process after a heart attack. Along with
education about lifestyle changes, your cardiac risk factors will be monitored
to ensure a healthy recovery.

The AHA recommends that you monitor your cardiac risk factors. Possible goal
numbers for your risk factors include:

  • blood pressure lower than 140/90 mm Hg
  • waist circumference lower than 35 inches for
    women and lower than 40 inches for men
  • body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9
  • blood cholesterol under 180 mg/dL
  • blood glucose under 100 mg/dL (during times
    of normal fasting)

You will obtain regular readings of these metrics during cardiac
rehabilitation. However, it helps to be aware of these numbers well beyond
rehab.

Makeover Your Lifestyle

A heart-healthy lifestyle can complement a medical treatment plan for heart
disease. Consider your current lifestyle habits and look for ways you might
improve them.

Exercise  

As long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you may begin an exercise
program after you have recovered from a heart attack. Regular exercise is certainly
important for weight maintenance, but it also works your muscles — the most
important muscle being your heart. Any form of exercise that gets your blood
pumping is beneficial. When it comes to heart health, however, aerobic exercise
is best. Examples include:

  • swimming
  • bicycling
  • jogging or running
  • walking at a moderate to brisk pace

These forms of exercise help increase the
amount of oxygen in your body and also strengthen the heart’s ability to pump
it through the bloodstream to the rest of your body. As an added bonus, regular
aerobic exercise also helps reduce hypertension, stress, and cholesterol.

If you notice any unusual symptoms
during exercise, such as prolonged shortness of breath, weak limbs, or chest
pain, stop right away and call 911.

Eat Right

A low-fat, low-calorie diet has been
proven to help prevent the risk for a heart attack. However, if you have
already had a heart attack, eating right is simply a must to prevent future
occurrences. Avoid trans fats and saturated fats whenever possible. These fats directly
contribute to plaque formation in the arteries. When your arteries become
clogged, blood can no longer flow to the heart, resulting in a heart attack.

Eating too many calories and being
overweight can also strain your heart. Controlling your weight and eating a
balance of plant foods, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products can help. Avoid
animal fats. Instead, eat fats that come from plant sources, such as olive oil
or nuts.

Quit Smoking

You may have considered quitting in the
past, but doing so is even more crucial after a heart attack. Smoking is a risk
factor for heart disease because it increases your blood pressure and risk for
clots by reducing oxygen cells within the bloodstream. This means that your
heart works harder to pump blood and has fewer healthy oxygen cells to maintain
optimal performance. Quitting now can significantly improve your overall health
and also reduce the occurrence of future heart attacks. Be sure to avoid
secondhand smoke, as this poses similar dangers in terms of heart health.

Control Other Risk Factors

Heart disease can run in families, but the majority of
heart attacks may be attributed to lifestyle choices. Aside from diet,
exercise, and smoking habits, it’s important to control other risk factors that
might contribute to future heart attacks. Talk to your doctor about:

  • hypertension
  • high
    cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • thyroid
    disease
  • unusual
    amounts of stress
  • mental
    health concerns, such as anxiety and depression

Know When to Seek Medical Attention

You’re at a huge risk for having another heart attack after you recover
from your first one. It is vital that you stay in tune with your body and
report any symptoms to your doctor immediately, even if they only seem slight.
Call 911 if you experience:

  • sudden and extreme fatigue
  • chest pain, and pain that travels to one or
    both arms
  • rapid heartbeat
  • sweatiness (without exercising)
  • dizziness and/or faintness
  • leg swelling
  • shortness of breath

Long-Term Outlook

Improving your heart health after a heart attack depends on how well you
adhere to your doctor’s treatment plan. It also depends on your ability to
identify potential problems. You should also be aware of the difference in
treatment outcomes between men and women post-heart attack. Researchers found
that 42 percent of women die within one year of having a heart attack, compared to 24
percent of men.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 735,000 people have
heart attacks every year in the U.S., and that 210,000 of these are second
heart attacks. Knowing your risk factors and making over your lifestyle can
help you become a survivor for life.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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