You can survive a heart attack and still go on to live an active and full life. But expect some things to change. Your doctor will advise you on what that means in regards to medication and lifestyle. But only you can follow those recommendations and become more heart healthy. Here are some key areas where change can lead to a stronger heart.
Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health. After you stop smoking you will notice the following benefits:
• You will feel better physically and psychologically.
• You will breathe easier.
• Your “smoker’s cough” should disappear.
• Your heart won’t have to work so hard.
• You will feel more energetic.
• Your sense of taste and smell will improve.
• You will save money.
Help is available. Talk to your physician today for resources that will support your quitting.
A heart-healthy diet should include low-salt, low-fat and low-cholesterol choices. Start with these general guidelines:
• Eat a more plant-based diet high in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds.
• Limit red meat.
• Eat fish and poultry (chicken, turkey) at least twice a week. Take off poultry skin before serving.
• Bake, broil, grill, microwave or poach meat.
• Use low-fat and non-fat dairy products.
• Read food labels and choose foods lower in saturated and trans fats.
• Use healthier oils such as canola, olive or soybean oil.
• Eat more meals at home to control salt and fat intake.
• Season foods with herbs, spices, garlic, onion, peppers, and lemon or lime juice to add flavor.
• Convenience foods such as canned soups, pasta sauces, and prepackaged or frozen meals can be higher in sodium and fat. Read labels and choose carefully.
Talk with your physician if you have questions or would like to meet with a dietitian.
Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the measure of how much pressure, or force, your blood exerts on the walls of your arteries. If your blood vessels are narrowed, your heart has to work harder to push blood through them, which results in an increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. While there is no cure for high blood pressure, there are things you can do to control it:
• Eat a low-sodium diet.
• Exercise regularly.
• Take medication to treat your hypertension exactly how your physician prescribes it.
Talk with your physician for your personal blood pressure goal.
All activity, regardless of type, benefits the heart. The more active you are, the more your heart will benefit. Exercise:
• Increases blood circulation throughout the body, heart, lungs and other organs. This allows muscles to work together more effectively.
• Improves the body’s ability to use oxygen, which gives you more energy.
• Helps you handle stress better, and increases your enthusiasm and optimism.
• Helps your psychological well-being by releasing tension, and aids in relaxation which will help you sleep better at night.
• Helps control your weight.
To get you started after a heart attack, your physician may ask you to participate in an outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program. You’ll get moving and make your heart stronger under the watchful eye of specially trained cardiac nurses.
Always talk with your physician about the best exercise for you.
Take Your Heart Medication
To keep you healthy after your heart attack, most likely your physician will prescribe medication for you. It’s important to follow the directions for taking it. That means taking the correct dose at the right time. Always carry an up-to-date list of your medications with you. Include both prescription and over-the-counter medications. The best way to remember your medication is to take it at the same time every day. Here are some more tips:
• Plan each dose around another part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth.
• Tape a reminder note on your fridge or other spot where you’ll see it.
• Set an alarm on your watch or cell phone.
• Keep a medication checklist. Mark off each dose as you take it.
• Use a pill box to organize your medicine.
Talk with your physician about any concerns you have about your medications.