Heart attacks can change your perspective on life, for better or worse. They can feel like boxing blows that hit you hard and fast and leave you feeling disoriented and overwhelmed in their wake. You can, however, get your life back on track with careful planning and strategic lifestyle changes to counter damage from a heart attack.
Here are a few essential steps you need to take on your path to recovery and to protect your heart from further issues.
Know Your Medicines, Inside Out
In the early recovery phases of a heart attack, your doctors will put you on a host of new medications to keep your stent open, control your heart rate, as well as lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. It is therefore vital that you become very well acquainted with the function and dosage of each drug.
Here's a checklist of the things you need to keep in mind when your doctor prescribes these new medications to you:
- Know the names and brands of all your medicines
- Be clear about the instructions on how and when to take them
- Inquire if there are any side effects and how they will affect you
- Be informed about the functionality of each medicine
- If you take over the counter medicines or herbal supplements, inform your doctor about them to avoid any drug interactions.
Don’t Ignore Your Emotions, Seek Help
In the wake of a heart attack, you may feel scared and confused. For two to six months, you may experience an emotional roller coaster. Depression is common if you have to make substantial changes to your regular routine and you may often experience the feeling of “why me?”. Even a slight twinge of pain in your chest may spark fear of another heart attack.
Some people feel angry and helpless as they have to depend on others during the recovery process.
Given all these emotions, it’s a good idea to seek help and support. If your hospital has a cardiac rehabilitation centre, you will be enrolled for counselling sessions. If not, getting support from loved ones or people who have suffered from a heart attack can help you cope. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help and discuss your mood swings with your doctor.
Make Lifestyle Changes
As a part of your overall recovery plan, you will have to adopt a healthy lifestyle that incorporates the below changes.
- Quit Smoking - Smoker before your heart attack? Make it a priority to quit today. This will be the single most important thing you can do, not just for your heart but for your entire body.
- Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet - Keep a check on your weight. Obesity is a major risk factor when it comes to diseases of the heart or diabetes. Work with your doctor and dietician to create a customised diet plan to help achieve your weight loss targets. An ideal diet should consist of lean meats like fish, fibre-rich whole grains and lots of healthy fruits and vegetables. You should also avoid salt, processed meats, unhealthy fats, and artificially flavoured drinks.
- Get Active - Don’t be afraid to start exercising after a heart attack. Regular exercise can help lower your risk of heart disease by stabilizing your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, as well as help, strengthen your cardiac muscles.
It is, however, important to consult your doctor before you get started as he or she may ask you to take a stress test to see what level of exercise is safe for you to start with.
And finally, it is important to understand that a heart attack isn’t a sign you should back away from life and not enjoy doing the things you like. It is instead, a sign that you need to make your physical and mental health a priority in your overall goals to live a productive and fulfilling life.