If you are recovering from a heart attack, you’re not alone. In fact, one patient is admitted to a hospital in Australia suffering from a heart attack every 9 minutes! Of those patients, 21 don’t make it out of the hospital, so you can count yourself as one of the luckiest people in the country. But now that you’ve survived a heart attack, what should you do? How can you support your recovery and reduce the risks of a fatal heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in the years to come?
For many patients, a heart attack is a real wakeup call that can’t be ignored. So, here’s some advice on how to come out the other side stronger and healthier than ever before.
Recovery Takes Time
Most heart attack patients spend 3-5 days in the hospital before going home, but that’s only the start of the recovery process. Before restarting your life, you need to rest. Full recovery can be a slow process, lasting several weeks or several months, so remember to take it easy and make small, manageable improvements one step at a time.
It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about particular timelines regarding your normal daily life, including when you can return back to work when you can start exercising, and even when you can start driving. These activities will all depend on individual factors such as the severity of your heart attack, the underlying cause of your medical condition and how stressful your work is etc.
You’ll Probably Have to Change Your Diet
Diet is one of the most important risk factors when it comes to heart disease, the health condition behind heart attacks. As a result, you’re probably going to have to change the way you eat and what you eat. A heart-healthy diet will include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (like avocados and fresh nuts), lean protein and dairy. Depending on your preference, you may even want to try a plant-based diet, even if it’s just a few days a week. You’ll have to significantly limit your intake of red meat, processed foods, fast food and salt, so it’s worth spending some time finding new ways to expand your culinary skills.
Start Exercising and Enjoying Physical Activity
Even though your heart beats all through the day, it needs exercise. Cardiovascular activity strengthens the heart muscle, boosts oxygen circulation through the body and brain, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and helps control weight so that your heart isn’t under too much pressure. Again, it’s best to start slow and stay within your doctor’s guidelines, as too much intense exercise can put you in danger.
Good exercises for heart attack patients during recovery include yoga, walking, and gentle strength exercises. As you get fitter and your doctor approves a more intense program, consider jogging, hiking, cycling, swimming, rowing or team sports.
The key with exercise is to find something you enjoy, as this makes it a lot easier to stick with. Join a local walking group or walk with a friend (even if it’s a dog!), encourage your partner or a friend to exercise with you so that you can team up on reaching your goals, and explore less well-known exercises and activities like dancing classes, pilates, water aerobics, or even having a personal trainer. Make it social, fun and easy!
Make a Plan to Quit Those Bad Habits
If you smoke or drink excessive alcohol, then now is the right time to quit. You should try to quit all tobacco and smoking habits outright and drink no more than what is recommended by your doctor. You can read up on the alcohol guidelines here, keeping in mind that it is recommended that you stop drinking alcohol entirely if you suffer from health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiomyopathy, high triglycerides, irregular heart rhythm, or have a history of stroke.
Make Sure You’re Prepared
As a heart attack survivor, you have a lot to celebrate, but it also means that you are at higher risk of having more heart attacks. In fact, patients who have has a heart attack are twice as likely to die as other members of the population – usually from another heart attack or cardiac event like SCA. This makes it absolutely essential that you commit to certain lifestyle changes, medication regimes and prepare for the possibility of a second cardiac event.
At DefibsPlus, we work to provide public spaces, workplaces and homes with affordable HeartSine Automated External Defibrillators as well as the training loved ones and co-workers need in order to recognise SCAs and use these simple devices to treat this emergency effectively. In addition, we offer a generous subsidy to help make these critical devices more affordable.
For more information on our products and services or the DefibsPlus subsidy, call 1300 463 344 or use our online form to contact us today. Together, we can save lives.