Even with all we know about heart disease, heart attacks remain fairly frequent. About every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack, according to the CDC.
The medical community has learned a ton of information about having and surviving heart attacks. They also know more about how to prevent them. But what do you do after a heart attack? Every aspect of your life changes after a cardiac event, and there’s a lot more to that recovery process than plain diet and exercise.
People need to know how to keep their quality-of-life high even after they’ve experienced permanent muscle damage to their heart.
Some of the health problems that might affect a heart attack patient’s recovery include:
- Peripheral artery disease (PAD)
- Kidney issues
- Another heart attack
However, if you take proper care of yourself while recovering from a heart attack, you should be able to avoid serious aftereffects. The main goal of creating a post-heart attack plan remains to do an adequate amount of activity supplemented by the right amount of rest.
Life after a cardiac event
After a bypass or cardiac event, you may find that you tire more easily and have less stamina. You can recover a decent quality-of-life by following some basic behaviors, such as:
- Avoiding the use of tobacco products. When you smoke, you damage your blood vessels, making it difficult for blood and oxygen to circulate through your body. The nicotine in tobacco products can also raise your blood pressure, which increases your chances of having another heart attack. One thing heart attack survivors don’t think about is the effects of second-hand smoke. Stay away from tobacco smoke, too, to gain the most from your heart attack recovery plan.
- Become more active. If you led a sedentary lifestyle before your heart attack, you’ll need to pick up your activity level. Don’t start becoming active until you get your doctor’s okay, however. Give yourself a chance to heal correctly, and then get moving.
- Choose excellent nutrition. Some changes you might need to make in your diet include reducing sodium, eliminating bad fats and red meat, and consuming the right amount of low-fat dairy each day.
To regain and add strength to the heart muscle, you’ll need to include the correct amount of cardio exercise into your daily routine. Cardio also improves the way the blood and oxygen get into your bloodstream.
Remember to get your doctor’s approval before you start any exercise program after a cardiac episode. Many doctors recommend their patients begin with about 15 minutes of daily light walking. If you have to work up to 15 minutes, that’s okay. You should work up to 45 minutes of walking per session.
Swimming remains a preferred exercise for individuals who need to get active but be careful of their joints. Jogging and cycling are fun activities to work up to gradually. No matter which activity level you start with, start slowly and work your way up to higher levels and get your cardiologist’s approval.
Your cardiologist might recommend having an AED available in case of a problem while you work out. Also, if you’re exercising outdoors, take your phone with you in case of an emergency. Your cardiologist might recommend using rehab programs to monitor you and help you develop the proper exercise habits to increase your heart’s strength.
Many physicians recommend waiting from six to eight weeks after a bypass procedure to start having sex again. Once your cardiologist diagnoses your heart condition as stable, and you don’t have significant arrhythmia or angina, you can pursue sexual intercourse again with your doctor’s consent.
Rehab & physical therapy
Your cardiologist will probably prescribe several medications for you after a heart episode, attack, or bypass. These medications have several purposes, including:
- Keeping a stent open
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Regulating the heart rate
- Keeping your cholesterol levels reasonable
You can have your pharmacy put your drugs in a pill pack to help you remember to take them. Download a pill reminder on your phone or use an old-school calendar to remind you to take your medications.
Many heart patients experience psychological symptoms after bypass surgery or heart illness. Such feelings as anxiety, depression, and nervousness may occur, starting with being confused about why you suddenly wake up in the hospital. You’ll be flooded with an overabundance of necessary information. Depression and anxiety occur in about one-fifth of cardiac patients after bypass surgery.
If these feelings seem unmanageable, or last for longer than two weeks, you might need additional psychological and prescription treatment. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and can even take a toll on it if not properly managed. You deserve to be both happy and healthy.