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Recovering from a Heart Attack – What You Should and Shouldn’t Do

Hospital emergency sign above front doors

In Canada, heart disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada after cancer and the leading cause of hospitalization. The most common form of heart disease is Ischemic Heart Disease, also known as coronary heart disease. Recovering from a heart attack can be challenging, both physically and emotionally. Recovering from a heart attack involves identifying goals and priorities and making positive lifestyle changes.

Taking care of your emotional health

Having a heart attack is both petrifying and emotionally draining. Fear, no doubt, will kick in immediately following a heart attack. This can make the recovery process difficult. It’s important to acknowledge your emotions, following a heart attack. Speaking to a therapist can help, as can communicating with friends and family. Integrating social support systems will allow you to feel connected, rather than lonely and helpless. Understanding that life does go on after a heart attack is key. Making positive life changes is also key to both emotional and physical health. Don’t suffer in silence – use the support systems around you and take care of your emotional health!

Proper nutrition

Recovering after a heart attack involves changing your eating habits, especially if they were poor, prior to a heart attack. Replacing bad habits for good ones can be simple, yet effective. Incorporating heart healthy foods into your diet can make a huge difference to your overall health and can prevent another heart attack. Basic changes like drinking more water and decreasing sodium intake can make the world of difference. After a heart attack, you don’t want to fall back into old, bad habits. If you used to eat a lot of salt, now is the time to reduce your intake. If you didn’t drink much water prior to your heart attack, now is the time to start. If you need support and guidance, speaking to a nutritionist/dietitianfruits and vegetables can be very beneficial. If you have benefits at work, you may want to check and see if you have coverage that would help pay for the services of a nutritionist/dietitian.

For ideas on selecting healthy ingredients that are good for your heart, read our Heart Healthy Ingredients to Add to Your Summer Meal Plan blog.

Get active

Maintaining good heart health requires some exercise. Following a heart attack, man walking on the beachincreasing your level of physical activity will be very important. A short walk every day will decrease your chances of having another heart attack. Once your body has recovered fully, you can then increase the amount of exercise you do. Make sure to speak to your doctor about incorporating exercise after a heart attack. Everyone is different, so make sure to follow his/her directions when it comes to physical activity. Don’t overdo it – take it nice and slow, but do stay active.

Quit smoking and drinking alcohol

Smoking and drinking alcohol affects your overall health and well-being. If you’ve already suffered from a heart attack, smoking and drinking will only increase your chances of having another one. According to the Heart Foundation, smokers not only have more heart attacks, strokes and angina than non-smokers, but also at a much younger age. Alcohol, although socially acceptable, can also be very dangerous for individuals who have suffered from a heart attack.

Read our blog The Effects of Alcohol on the Heart to find out just how much alcohol can affect your heart health.

Regular check-ups

doctor checking blood pressureSeeing your doctor for regular check-ups and check-ins will help with recovering from a heart attack. Your doctor will help keep you accountable and remind you of the changes that you need to make to prevent a future heart attack. Make sure to let him/her know if you’re experiencing any health setbacks. Your doctor is there to support you, make sure you keep him/her informed.

Cardiac rehabilitation centre

In order to get the proper support with your cardiac are continuum, heart attack survivors are recommended to attend programs at through their local cardiac rehabilitation centre. Data collected by Alberta Health services indicates that in 2015, over 1,500 cardiac patients participated in the various programs to achieve a heart healthy lifestyle.

The cardiac rehabilitation website in Alberta says its patients in cardiac rehabilitation have the ability to work with a team of multidisciplinary professionals that include:

  • Cardiologists
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Registered Nurses
  • Pharmacists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Exercise Specialists
  • Cardiology Technicians
  • Dietitians
  • Social Workers
  • Psychologists

Team members work with patients and families to understand how best to lead an active and healthy lifestyle through focusing on diet, supervised exercise sessions, and other cardiovascular risk reduction activities.

Education session topics, combined with an exercise session, include:

  • Heart Healthy Eating: The Essentials
  • Plan, Shop, Cook
  • Taking the Lead
  • Heart, Mind & Emotions
  • Stress Busters
  • Benefits of Exercise
  • Energy Conservation
  • Medication Matters

Recovering from a heart attack is possible. There are many resources and professionals available to support your through the process. Speak to your doctor and keep friends and family in the loop. It’s important to learn to ask for help, when you need it!