What to do after a heart attack – Cleveland Clinic

The phrase “severe like a heart attack” exists for a reason: Heart attacks are a medical emergency that can impact your entire life and can be fatal. But by making healthy lifestyle changes and following your doctor’s advice closely, you can play a huge role in your recovery and help prevent future heart attacks.

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Interventional cardiologists Leslie Cho, MD, and Grant Reed, MD, explain what to expect after a heart attack, including after-effects, lifestyle changes, mental health and more.

What is life like after a heart attack?

“A heart attack should be treated as a life-changing experience,” says Dr. Reed, “and being active in your health can help you recover. “

According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 5 people with a heart attack are readmitted to hospital for a second within five years. But by taking care of yourself and focusing on your health, you can lower your risk of recurrence.

“Following a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle, taking your medications as prescribed, quitting smoking, and participating in cardiac rehabilitation can maximize your chances of recovering from a heart attack,” he says.

How long does it take to recover from a heart attack

Most people can return to work or resume their usual activities two weeks to three months after a heart attack. But your individual recovery time depends on a number of factors, including:

  • When is your heart attack detected and treated.
  • The size and severity of your heart attack.
  • Your health and habits before the heart attack.
  • Lifestyle changes you make as a result of your heart attack.

“The most common reason for a heart attack is a sudden blockage of a heart artery,” says Dr. Reed. “The effects of a heart attack on your heart usually depend on the size of a blocked vessel and how long it lasts.”

Patients who are treated quickly and correctly may have fewer symptoms and long-term consequences, which is why it is so important to know the signs of a heart attack and to see a doctor immediately if you think you are having one.

What happens immediately after a heart attack

Once the doctors confirm that you have (or have had) a heart attack, you will be taken to the heart catheterization lab.

“The most effective treatment for a heart attack is a cardiac catheterization, at which point the blocked blood vessel can be opened with a balloon and a stent placed to keep the artery permanently open, ”says Dr. Reed. “The sooner that happens, the better your overall prognosis. “

The lingering effects of a heart attack

In the hours following a heart attack, you may feel:

  • Chest discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Weariness / fatigue.

These symptoms usually improve from day one, but may last longer if heart failure – weakness of the heart muscle or valves – develops.

It is also common for survivors to experience mental health issues as a result of their heart attack. (More on that in a moment.)

How to recover from a heart attack

Unless there are complications, most people then spend two days to a week in the hospital. But your recovery is only just beginning.

In the days and weeks following your heart attack, you will be closely monitored by your healthcare professionals, who will want to make sure that you are recovering and adopting heart-healthy habits that will reduce the risk of a heart attack. future heart attack.

“A heart attack is a serious event, but most patients can regain a good quality of life afterwards,” says Dr. Reed. “However, it may take a few weeks for you to feel like yourself again.”

After a heart attack comes cardiac rehabilitation

When you leave the hospital, you will be registered for a cardiac rehabilitation program, designed to get you on the path to heart health through weight management, nutrition, exercise and risk reduction.

“Studies show that patients who participate in cardiac rehabilitation tend to have a better quality of life and live longer after a heart attack,” says Dr. Reed.

Cardiac rehabilitation, which typically lasts 36 sessions, is an outpatient supervised exercise program guided by an exercise physiologist. In cardiac rehabilitation, you will learn a variety of heart healthy habits.

1. Get enough exercise

Exercise is an essential part of recovering from a heart attack and living a healthy heart. In cardiac rehabilitation, you will be monitored for symptoms and changes in heart rate during your exercise, and you will track your progress over time.

First, you will determine your functional ability (your ability to perform daily activities that require physical exertion), which is compromised after a heart attack.

“You will get on a treadmill so that the healthcare professionals can see how well you are functioning, and then you will try to increase that number by about 20%,” says Dr. Cho. “At the end of cardiac rehabilitation, we want you to exercise almost every day of the week for at least 30 minutes a day.

2. Eat a heart-healthy diet

“Dietary changes to minimize saturated fat and cholesterol and to reduce salt intake are essential,” says Dr. Reed. The Mediterranean diet, which is considered the most heart-healthy eating style, promotes:

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, olive oil, and nuts.
  • Incorporate fish and poultry while limiting red and processed meats.
  • Consume a minimum of dairy products and sweets.

3. Lower your blood pressure

Chronic high blood pressure is directly linked to cardiovascular disease, but weight loss, exercise, reducing salt intake, and prescription medications can all help lower your blood pressure.

“Expecting your blood pressure to reach a target of

4. Achieve a healthy weight

Eating a healthy diet and exercising more can help you lose weight, which is also associated with a healthier heart.

“Losing weight against a BMI target of less than 25 kg / m2 can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and improve quality of life,” says Dr. Reed.

5. Focus on your mental health

“People underestimate the amount of mental trauma a heart attack causes,” says Dr. Cho. “It’s a lot to deal with for patients and their families. “

Studies show that people with heart disease are more likely to develop depression than those who don’t, which makes protecting your mental health after a heart attack all the more crucial.

Don’t ignore mood swings and be on the lookout for symptoms of depression, comprising:

  • Sadness.
  • Weariness and fatigue.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities.

If you start to have these feelings, contact your healthcare professional to discuss them.

6. Manage your stress

Cardiac rehabilitation will also teach you stress reduction techniques to try to improve your mental and emotional well-being and reduce your risk of future heart attacks.

“You will learn behavior modification techniques, including how to breathe and manage your stress and anger,” says Dr. Cho. “This is one of the reasons why study after study shows that people in cardiac rehabilitation live longer after a heart attack than people who do not do cardiac rehabilitation.”

7. Stop smoking

The facts don’t lie: it is essential to stop smoking after having a heart attack. Ask your health care provider for help if you need help quitting smoking.

People who smoke are four times more likely to die from heart disease than non-smokers, and studies show that smokers who resume the habit after a heart attack are three times more likely to die than those who quit.

Make sure you take your medications as directed

After a heart attack, you can expect to be given a number of medicines to maximize your heart function and minimize the risk of a future heart attack. These can also include cholesterol lowering drugs such as statins Where PCSK9 inhibitors.

And while it’s common for heart attack patients to feel upset about suddenly taking multiple medications, try to focus on the bigger picture – your health.

“Sometimes people focus on the number of drugs they take, comparing themselves to people they know and who don’t take them,” says Dr. Cho. “But it’s not about the number of drugs you take. It’s about doing what you need to do to live a long, high-quality life.

Keep in close contact with your doctor

When recovering from a heart attack, it is important that you follow your healthcare professional’s instructions and do not miss any appointments. Your doctor will monitor your progress to determine how often you need to return to the office.

“After completing cardiac rehabilitation, most people are seen by their cardiologist every three months for the first year, then every six months, and eventually you’ll switch to once a year,” says Dr. Cho.

Have confidence in your ability to recover

With improved prevention and rehabilitation, as well as advances in treatment, you can recover from a heart attack and live a healthy, happy and fulfilled life for many years to come.

“Heart attacks used to be a death sentence, but they’re not anymore, if you take good care of yourself,” says Dr. Cho. “A heart attack doesn’t necessarily mean the end. It could mean a fresh start.

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