After having been treated in the hospital for a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction), maybe after angioplasty with a stent in your coronary artery, you are home and in a very apprehensive mood about your life after a heart attack and possibly treated with a stent.
You are in fear of suffering from another attack or from its complications, which you fear could probably be fatal. This fear, though practical, is baseless. There are ways to adapt and you will be able to live a long, regular, and quality life after your heart attack.
Remember, you have beaten the odds and have survived the first attack. In life after a heart attack, discipline will be the keyword for beating the odds again and increasing your life expectancy.
You could have undergone an angioplasty and have a stent in one of your coronaries or you could have undergone coronary bypass surgery, the fact remains that you must impose certain rules and regulations to keep your heart healthy and prevent further damage. It will improve the chances of an increased life expectancy, which every such patient always looks for.
Preventing a second heart attack and the side effects of the first one are primary factors, which you and your doctor focus on. Just for your information, two-thirds of heart attack patients do not take precautions to prevent another heart attack. So, if someone you know died early after an attack, it does not mean you will.
Life after a heart attack need not be a fearful one. It could be as normal as it was before the attack except for a few changes and precautions.
Even with coronary bypass surgery or angioplasty with a stent inside one of your coronary arteries, your life expectancy after an attack can be long, normal, and one that is full of quality.
As a matter of fact, if you have undergone any of these surgical procedures, you increase the life of the heart many times with a stent or a bypass.
Your doctor will have explained to you about the damage to the heart caused by the attack. He must have also explained what to do and the precautions and care to take. This post aims to remind you of those things and maybe a little more.
It just narrows down to three simple-to-follow measures:
- A healthy diet
- Healthy lifestyle habits, that also include a prescribed exercise program.
- Proper treatment of any underlying health ailment that can cause a heart attack.
These are the very measures that will prevent you from suffering from a second attack and increase your life expectancy.
Do not be under the impression, you have to live a sedentary life throughout. You can resume your normal activities but under the guidance and advice of your physician.
This is because the extent of your activities will depend on the amount of heart damage, you have incurred during the heart attack.
Life after a heart attack – Living guidelines
The extent of heart damage depends greatly on the promptness of the treatment administered during the attack. If the treatment has been prompt, then the extent of damage to the heart is limited, and the quality of life has fewer restrictions.
Therein lies the significance of the immediate action one should take in seeking medical help when one experiences the symptoms.
However, you should follow certain dos and don’ts. Knowing the complications will keep you focused and keen on following the suggestions given here. Needless to add, you have to keep in regular touch with your physician and follow his advice religiously.
1. Proper rest and sleep are necessary after a heart attack
Proper sleep for a heart attack patient can be very important as this allows the heart to recuperate. Sometimes, you may feel tired and fatigued and this does happen occasionally. You may even experience body pain. If this happens, you should take a short rest. It is better to take a rest before you feel tired. Learn how to sleep well.
2. No smoking after a heart attack
If you continue smoking, you double the chances of a second attack. Smoking is the second leading cause of heart attack after hypertension. The survival rate after a second attack is not good.
According to the American Heart Association, 25 percent of the men and one-third of the women who survived the first attack and continue smoking die the following year of cardiac arrest or a second heart attack. Quitting smoking cannot be overstressed.
3. Healthy diet for the heart
The diet for heart patients plays an important part in protecting your heart under normal circumstances and post-heart attack. And, if you know what causes an attack, it will help you to keep those risk factors at bay.
Briefly, follow the diet and eat the foods listed below:
- Cut down on fats, especially saturated fats. This is to control your rising cholesterol levels. According to Harvard Health Education,
“In older men, nearly all heart attacks are caused by atherosclerotic blockages in coronary arteries. Conventional coronary artery disease also predominates in young adults, accounting for about 80% of heart attacks. About 60% of these young patients have disease of just one coronary artery, while older patients are more likely to have disease in two or three arteries.”
- Totally avoid trans fats. They are found in cookies, crackers, margarine, French fries and chips, anything fried in fat or unhealthy oils, donuts, and snack foods. Transfats are your heart’s enemy number one. Eat whole grains and cereals, fruits, and vegetables.
- Fish such as salmon and mackerel are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids and you should eat them twice a week.
- Use olive oil or canola oil as the cooking medium.
4. Can I drink alcohol after a heart attack?
If you have to, you can take alcohol about 45 days after the symptoms of the attack have subsided. According to the American Journal of Cardiology, a patient with a heart attack can have one beer or one glass of wine, or one drink of liquor.
Here it is important to know that you must exercise willpower and stay within the above-mentioned limits, as one does tend to drink more, once started. Crossing the limits can be harmful to the heart. Ideally, you should avoid alcohol totally if you feel that limits may be crossed.
Regular medical follow-ups after heart attack
1. Medicines prescribed after a heart attack
Generally, four medications are prescribed for patients after a heart attack. You should take them with due diligence for the rest of your life There may be variations depending on the type of attack you had and any other accompanying health conditions. They are:
- Aspirin to prevent blood clots
- Beta-blockers protect the heart by reducing the workload
- Ace inhibitors also protect the heart by dilating the blood vessels and reducing the blood pressure
- Statins lower blood cholesterol
2. Physical activity and exercise after a heart attack?
You can resume your physical activity if your symptoms have totally subsided. Begin slowly with small walks first and then gradually extend the boundaries of the activity. Exercise and the prescribed diet will help you stay at a healthy weight.
The benefits of regular exercise for a heart attack patient:
- Regular exercise lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and raises the good cholesterol (HDL) levels thereby helping to keep the lumen of the arteries clear.
- Exercise also helps to prevent depression, which is a major side effect seen in patients after a heart attack.
- According to a study, patients with a heart attack who exercise regularly are twice as likely to survive for a longer period as patients who do not.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise such as walking five times a week. Alternately, you could do 20 minutes of moderately vigorous exercises such as brisk walking or swimming three times a week.
Important: Not every heart can take the physical effort of exercise. You must take your physician’s advice before starting any exercise program.
3. Resuming work after a heart attack
After evaluating your recovery and the nature of your work, the physician may advise you to resume work after 4 weeks.
It is important that you do not experience chest pain, discomfort, or other symptoms for your doctor to allow you to begin your work.
Driving a car post-heart attack for most patients can begin a week after symptoms have totally subsided.
4. Sex after a heart attack
You can resume your sexual activities four weeks after the symptoms of the attack have subsided. However, depending on the extent of heart damage, the physician may advise you to participate in a passive manner with your partner on top.
5. Resentment, anger, and depression
Resentment and anger are the side effects that can occur in such circumstances. You see these in about 25 percent of the patients. Depression, too, is an accompanying side effect.
These patients are prone to get angry and depressed due to the fear and apprehension of another attack and restriction on activity. In such cases, one should not hesitate or feel embarrassed to take professional help. This will help, in psychologically being adjusted to one’s new routine of life after a heart attack.
6. Cardiac rehabilitation
Cardiac rehab forms an essential part of life after a heart attack. According to statistics, the chances of a second heart attack are much lower in patients who have taken up this program.
It educates and advises you on the heart attack risk factors and gives you a program to follow with periodic follow-ups, which you must take up in earnest.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program of educating the patient about the importance of lifestyle changes and advice on nutrition and exercise. The program also provides psychological support to prevent depression.
All these factors can prevent the patient from getting another attack. This program is carried out under medical supervision.
Your doctor, dietitian, physiotherapist, and psychologist evaluate you at the required periodic intervals and advise you on their respective fields of expertise. This is a program, which you must follow post-heart attack.