Heart Attack Recovery
Reducing the Chances of a Second Heart Attack
If you’ve survived a heart attack, one thing’s for certain: You don’t want to go through another one. But it is a reality for some Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, second heart attacks account for 25 percent of all heart attacks in the U.S.
Putting the right measures in place during your heart attack recovery, however, can help prevent a second heart attack and set the course for a healthier future.
Make preventing a second heart attack your first priority. Here are five things you can do:
One you’re home from the hospital and on the road to recovery, it’s crucial that you take all medications as prescribed by your doctor. Certain medicines can greatly lower your risk of another cardiac event. Maintain regular doctor appointments to monitor key risk factors like high blood pressure. Know what symptoms to look out for and be sure to report them—even minor ones—to your doctor right away.
Reduce Risk Factors
Work with your doctor to address lifestyle habits and medical conditions that can increase the risk of a second heart attack, such as:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol usage
Making the necessary adjustments to your lifestyle can really help get some of these risk factors under control—and the effort is well worth the reward of improved health.
Make Movement a Must
Your first step toward physical activity after a heart attack is to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program. You should have received a referral to cardiac rehab when you were discharged from the hospital. If you didn’t, ask your doctor about it. Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program that’s designed to help you gradually improve your cardiovascular health following a heart attack.
After cardiac rehab, it’s essential to make movement a part of your daily routine. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having a second heart attack. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week, which breaks down to 30 minutes, five days a week. You can even break up the 30 minutes into three 10-minute daily sessions if that works better with your schedule. If you’re a beginner, start out with 10 to 15 minutes per day and work your way up.
Following a heart-healthy diet is one of the best things you can do to fight cardiovascular disease. Your doctor will be able to provide specific dietary guidelines for you, but in general, a heart-healthy diet is one that:
- Is low in sodium
- Focuses on vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
- Includes low-fat dairy, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds
- Limits sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meat
- Is low in unhealthy fats, such as saturated fat and trans fat
Emergency-Proof Your Home
Living alone? Consider getting a medical alert system. In the event you do have a second heart attack, these systems work by connecting you with a highly trained operator at the touch of a button. The operator will assess your needs and quickly dispatch the appropriate response team. Even if you’re unable to speak or communicate, they can still send help. They’ll also stay on the line with you until the emergency is over, which gives you extra peace of mind in a stressful situation.
For those living independently, a medical alert system can help alleviate the stress and anxiety you might feel about the possibility of having a second heart attack when no one else is around.
Just as every heart attack is different, every person’s heart attack recovery is different as well. Check-in with your stress level frequently and seek out support if you’re experiencing depression or anxiety.
Taking the right steps to recover from a first heart attack can decrease your chances of having a second heart attack—and you, and your health, are well worth it.