Many patients fear they cannot return to a normal life after having a heart attack, but a cardiologist sets the record straight.
After a heart attack, it’s completely possible to get back to your normal routine, as long as you follow your doctor’s advice. The goal is always to get you back to the life you were used to before the heart attack and perhaps improve your lifestyle and capability after.
In general, patients who have suffered a heart attack are advised to make certain dietary, fitness, and overall lifestyle changes to maintain their health moving forward. Here are the most important strategies:
Beef Up the Antioxidants
It can be helpful to see a dietitian for specifics, but it’s important to have a diet high in antioxidant vitamins. Antioxidants are disease fighting substances found in foods, and some studies suggest they can prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, which leads to an increase in fatty plaque on artery walls, which can eventually slow or blood flow to the heart.
I suggest eating more fruits and vegetables, increasing fiber and whole grains, and reducing the amount of sugar, red meats, and saturated fats.
Manage Health-Risk Factors
Heart-attack survivors need to be diligent in managing any personal health-risk factors too. These include things like cholesterol levels, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It’s also important for anyone who smokes to quit smoking. Keeping these risk factors under control can help to keep the heart healthy and reduce the chances of a second attack.
While it’s easy to assume that having a heart attack means you need rest, keeping active is an important part of the recovery. It’s extremely important to get moving after a heart attack. To start, many patients are enrolled in a cardiac-rehab program. Cardiac rehab has been shown to improve future cardiac health and decrease the risk of a repeat cardiac event. In terms of activity, we generally say mild activity, such as light housework, is okay in the first four weeks, a little more strenuous activity between four and six weeks, and after that consult your doctor to see whether or not it’s safe to engage in more rigorous activity.
Stay Alert for Depression
For some patients, a heart attack can cause feelings of depression or anxiety, and this can make it difficult to get the recommended amount of activity. Watch for the signs so you can seek counseling if needed:
- Loss of interest
- Frequent feelings of sadness or emptiness
In the end, the road to recovery depends on the severity of the heart attack, but full recovery is absolutely possible. In addition, it’s important to remember that having a heart attack does make you more susceptible to a future heart attack, so pay close attention to your body. Any chest pains, any sensations that are similar to those experienced when the heart attack occurred, and any symptoms that are of concern should immediately be discussed with your doctor.
Dr. Smriti Deshmukh is board-certified in cardiology, echocardiography and nuclear cardiology at White Plains Hospital, serving as the Director of Echocardiography. She sees patients at 33 Davis Avenue and 2 Longview Avenue in White Plains. To make an appointment, call 914-849-7105.