Understanding the Post-Heart Attack Period

For most people a heart attack is a frightening and sobering event. After the crisis has passed, the healing process may involve medications and possible surgery, but many of the most important factors in recovery deal with how the patient lives his or her own life. A heart attack is a signal to make some changes.

It has been proven that people who continue to smoke after a heart attack do not recover as well as those who quit after their heart attack.

In addition, if you stop smoking after a heart attack, your risk of a second heart attack goes down. Nicotine affects blood pressure and accelerates the blocking of the arteries to the heart, so quitting is a very smart thing to do.

Coronary artery disease is often the result of a diet high in fat and cholesterol, so the first steps to recovery may involve developing and implementing healthier eating habits. Chief among these changes is cutting back on saturated fats and red meat and increasing the quantity of nonfat foods in the diet. A diet that emphasizes healthy complex carbohydrates such as grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes, as well as fish and poultry instead of red meats, can make a big difference over the long run.

Extra pounds put an extra burden on the heart, so losing weight is another key to reducing the risk of another heart attack. Also, people who are overweight tend to be sedentary, and a sedentary lifestyle is known to contribute to heart disease. A healthcare provider may order an exercise tolerance test to assess the heart’s responses to physical activity. Once this is done, a cardiac conditioning program can help the patient strengthen his or her heart and develop the lifetime habit of regular, moderate exercise.

  • It is also important after a heart attack to control high blood pressure and, if the victim is a diabetic, to control blood sugar, both under the care of a healthcare provider.
  • Learning to deal with life’s stresses in a calmer way may also lead to a successful recovery.
  • If you or someone close to you has had a heart attack, ask your healthcare provider for advice on reducing the risk of having another one.
  • Losing weight is a key to reducing the risk of another heart attack.


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