If you or someone you know has lived through a heart attack, you know better than most how life-changing the experience can be. A heart attack can fundamentally change a person, both physically and emotionally. But, it is possible to turn over a new leaf and set a new course for your life after you experience a heart attack.
Not all patients experience a heart attack for the same reason. For many, they occur due to a prolonged unhealthy lifestyle while other patients experience heart attacks due to genetic conditions. Even more, patients fall into both these categories and the combination of lifestyle and genetics is a compounding force.
Heart attack recovery varies from person to person. Before you commit to any lifestyle changes you should ensure that they are supported by your cardiologist. If you’re ready to turn over a new leaf here are some lifestyle changes that we recommend.
Develop A Taste For Heart-Healthy Foods
Many heart attacks are caused when cholesterol that has built up in a patient’s arteries blocks the flow of blood to the heart. This cholesterol, also known as plaque, is often caused by an unhealthy diet. Foods that are high in sugar, fat, or are highly processed are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to heart attacks and heart disease. If your current diet falls into some of these categories, it’s time to reassess and learn to make smarter food choices.
After a heart attack, patients should eat diets high in fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. Turning over a new leaf also means avoiding fast, highly processed food and opting for more foods that are prepared at home. Perhaps one of the most powerful things you can do to turn over a new leaf after your heart attack is to learn how to cook in a new, heart-healthy way. The Mediterranean diet and plant-based diets are some of the most popular for patients recovering from a heart attack.
Schedule Movement Into Your Day
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there is no single post-heart attack exercise recommendation. Every patient is different and has different needs, and their exercise routines should reflect that. If you had little to no exercise routine prior to your heart attack, now is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf. Once you’ve confirmed with your cardiologist that you are ready to introduce an exercise routine it’s important to start slow. Choose a low-impact activity like walking, swimming, or bike riding and invite friends or family to join you. The company will make the exercise more enjoyable and also ensure that you remain safe in the early days of your recovery.
Too often the image of exercise is taken over by fit people pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion. This isn’t the only way to be active though. The most important thing about your exercise routine is that you are consistent and develop it into a habit. Set a goal of exercising for 30 minutes each day and you’ll see the positive impact it has on your life after a heart attack.
Reduce Your Stress
High-stress lifestyles are another commonality in individuals who experience heart attacks. Prolonged, unmanaged stress puts a great deal of pressure on your heart which is already weak after your heart attack. If you are in a job, relationship, or lifestyle that causes you extreme stress, you should address it sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, some of us are more prone to stress and anxiety than others. If that’s you, changing jobs or limiting lifestyle stressors may not be enough to take the stress off your heart. Fortunately, one significant tool for lowering stress is exercise. If you’ve taken the step above to integrate exercise into your daily life you may already feel your anxiety dropping. Other ways to lower your stress are to reduce your caffeine intake, practice deep breathing, meditate, and spend time with your friends and family.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing stress and anxiety. We all become stressed for different reasons and so we all need different approaches for reducing that stress. If you are a heart attack survivor who is trying to turn over a new leaf, we urge you to find some stress reduction tools that will work for you.
Collaborate With Your Doctor
Your doctor at Cardiovascular Associates of Lake County has decades of experience in this field and can give you the tools to help you have the most successful recovery possible. This requires you to commit to a new lifestyle, taking the recommended medications, and following through with your cardio rehab. Good collaboration also requires you to share the truth about how you’re feeling, the new or persisting symptoms you may be having, and how your medications are working. Getting you through your heart attack recovering is a team effort.
You may never be the same as you were before your heart attack and we think that’s a good thing. With all of the negativity that comes from the experience of having a heart attack, we hope your life is also changed by the motivation to make new choices. If you would like to learn more about our heart attack recovery recommendations, contact our office any time.