Post Heart Attack: I’ve suffered from a heart attack, what should I do?
Depending on the severity of your heart attack it is not unusual to be in the hospital for only a few days. However, discharge from the hospital is just the beginning of a recovery period likely to take several months. During this time, it is important to allow time to heal and to seek help from healthcare providers and specialists for your medical, emotional, dietary, and exercise needs.
Healthcare providers are there to assist with the mental and physical support necessary to ensure a complete recovery. The long-term goal during your recovery is to reduce the chances of suffering another attack and to experience cardiac rehabilitation, thereby being able to once again resume your usual activities.
- When leaving the hospital, make sure that the discharge orders are complete, that you understand the requirements, and that you are clear about the specific medications that you are to take.
Your cardiac rehabilitation program will have begun while you were in the hospital, providing you with an understanding of how the heart attack has affected your health and the various types of treatment and medications that you will need. Risk factors, necessary lifestyle changes, and ways that you will be allowed to gradually increase activity levels will be discussed. Many hospitals provide cardiac rehabilitation programs that begin a month or two after your discharge. These programs usually include moderate aerobic-exercise sessions.
- Talk with your doctor and nurses about how you can live as normal a life as possible. Ask how soon you can go back to work, have sex, drive your car, and learn what you can to do for depression and any chest discomfort. Your medical providers can also answer questions about most other matters.
Many heart patients will be allowed to return to work after suffering an attack, how quickly depends on the quality of your health and the severity of the attack. Sexual activity can usually be resumes approximately a month after an attack, or at the point where you can walk quickly up two flights of stairs, pain-free, without becoming short of breath. (Erectile dysfunction is not uncommon for men who have experienced a heart attack, typically due to stress and anxiety, or as side-effect of certain medications. Your doctor can advise possible treatments.)
The stress created by a heart attack can create feelings of anxiety, sadness, and depression. Although this is not unusual, it may be helpful to discuss any emotional concerns with your medical providers, as well as methods for managing discomfort and pain.
There are several ways that you can lower the risk of having another attack. Knowledge and awareness can help you to prevent, reduce risks, and receive necessary treatment for heart conditions that might lead to a repeated attack.
- Begin by making changes in your life that can help to reduce the risk of having another heart attack. For example, eat healthful meals, become more physically active, if you are a smoker, quit! Additionally, heavy drinking may raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk of suffering another heart attack.
- Diet – When you leave the hospital you should be provided with a heart-healthy diet plan. Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to regulate a heart condition. Red meats, and foods that are high in saturated fats, are generally not as healthy for the heart as fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, and oily fish which contains is high in omega-3, which can help lower cholesterol levels. Additionally, obesity tends to increase the risk of heart disease, so you may also want to follow a diet plan that will help you to lose weight, if necessary.
- Regular Exercise – Once you are able to resume mild exercises, a regular exercise routine can help you to strengthen the heart muscle. Usually, two-and-a-half hours of aerobic, average-intensity aerobic exercise is recommended each week. An exercise routine tailored to your medical needs can help assist with rebuilding your strength and controlling weight.
- Medical Visits – Make sure that you keep all scheduled medical appointments and continue to you see your doctor regularly. Your medical provider will prescribe appropriate medications and monitor your heart health, helping to make it possible to avoid a repeat attack.
Avoiding Future Heart Attacks
Suffering a heart disease does not mean that your life is over. However, it is important to follow your doctor’s advice. Every heart attack patient will experience their own unique challenges and difficulties, so aftercare should be tailored to your individual needs. Therefore, missing appointments and continuing unhealthy patterns of behavior can increase your chances of suffering another, potentially fatal, heart disease statistic. The good news is that by learning ways to care for yourself, and your heart, it is possible to maximize your overall health and minimize the chances a repeat attack.