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. Unfortunately, many heart patients have mistaken ideas about what’s good for them.
Mistake 1: Thinking all heart attacks are the same. 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 desk job, too. Don’t count on it. Work with your doctor to learn what’s best for you personally. Everyone has different genetics and different risk factors 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 appropriate for you.
Mistake 2: Not adopting a healthier lifestyle. Learning to eat better may seem like the challenge of a lifetime–not to mention giving up cigarettes, or making time for regular exercise. Yet, these are some of the best things you can do for a happier, healthier future.
Important steps that can help you prevent a second heart attack include:
• Quit smoking.
• Exercise regularly, according to your healthcare provider’s advice.
• Eat a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and calories.
• Control your weight.
• Manage your blood pressure.
• Control your cholesterol levels.
• Control diabetes or any other blood sugar abnormalities.
• Visit your healthcare provider regularly to make sure you are on track.
Mistake 3: Staying stuck in grief or depression. 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 and may require a grieving process.
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.
If you are overwhelmed with feelings of grief or depression, don’t hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
Mistake 4: Giving up on heart medicines. Don’t stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider. Work with your provider to determine what your choices are and what these medicines can do for you in terms of risk versus benefit. Ask for help in choosing the ones that:
• Work the best for you
• Have the fewest side effects
• Are affordable
• You’ll be comfortable taking
• Fit with your daily schedule
Mistake 5: Tiptoeing around your family. 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.
Mistake 6: Staking your life on yesterday’s truths. In many cases, the treatments doctors relied on just a few years ago already are considered outdated. There have been dramatic changes in medicines and procedures, so stay up-to-date with regular visits to your healthcare team.
Mistake 7: Shunning exercise. 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 crucial for someone who’s already had a heart attack to exercise properly under the advice of a doctor. Get an exercise prescription designed just for you, based on your physical condition and your needs and interests. Exercise can help people control risks related to weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. One excellent way to get started is to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Mistake 8: Not “bothering” your doctor with questions. Your healthcare provider is your greatest ally and wants to partner in your care. Don’t hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns.