Lifestyle Changes to Manage Heart Attack
by Michael Jubinville, MPH
Daily habits can improve the health of your heart while lowering the risk of another heart attack. Changes are focused on:
Chemicals from cigarettes cause a tightening of blood vessels. They also add to the plaque on blood vessel walls. People who keep smoking after a first heart attack are twice as likely to have a second one. On the other hand, quitting smoking will drop the risk of a heart attack to that of a nonsmoker within 3 years.
Being around smokers or in smoky places is also harmful. Try to stay away from them if you can. Ask visitors to smoke outside the house.
Changing eating habits is part of the treatment plan. Eating the right foods includes:
Eat a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. A dietitian can help you with meal planning to get you started.
Excess weight causes stress on the heart. It also raises the risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Losing as little as 10 pounds can drastically lower the risk of having heart problems. Losing weight safely will help you get to and stay in a health weight range. A dietitian will help you learn how to read food labels, shop for food, and plan meals.
Exercise makes the heart stronger and lowers the risk of future heart attacks. Choose activities you like so they become part of your normal day. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of exercise. It is normal to feel anxious about exercising after a heart attack. Starting out in a cardiac rehab program will put you on the right path to exercise safely and overcome any fears.
Manage Any Health Problems
Follow your care plan for other health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor if you need to make changes.
Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Talk to your doctor about drinking alcohol. You may need to avoid it.
If you do drink, do so in moderation. This is 1 drink per day or less for women and 2 drinks per day or less for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, or 4 ounces of wine, or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. Alcohol may interact with how well your medicine works.
Watch for Depression
It is common to have anxiety or depression after a heart attack. Depression can slow healing and put you at risk for other heart problems or death. Signs of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in doing favorite activities. Talk to your care team if these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks.
Returning to Everyday Life
Recovery from a heart attack also involves:
Acute coronary syndromes. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated March 15, 2019. Accessed March 28, 2019.
Cardiac rehabilitation. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/cardiac-rehabilitation. Accessed March 28, 2019.
Heart attack tools and resources. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/heart-attack-tools-and-resources. Accessed March 28, 2019.
ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated July 10, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.
Treatment for tobacco use. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated October 17, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.
What is cardiac rehabilitation? American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/what-is-cardiac-rehabilitation. Accessed March 28, 2019.
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Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 3/28/2019
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