HomeHealthHealth Conditions

How to recover after a heart attack

How to recover after a heart attack
The recovery process after a heart attack is not an easy one, but with appropriate changes and help from family, it doesn't have to be a difficult one either 
Recovering from a heart attack isn’t just about beating physical symptoms. It is also about minimising the risks of it happening again and laying the foundations for good health in the future. As part of getting well, you and your family may need to make significant lifestyle changes.

How to facilitate your recovery

Credit: Ridofranz
According to recent research, modifying certain key aspects of everyday life can dramatically reduce the risk of suffering a second heart attack. Changes include stopping smoking, reducing cholesterol levels, exercising and avoiding stress.
"Modifying key aspects of everyday life can dramatically reduce the risk of suffering a second heart attack"
Your recovery programme should involve a wide variety of lifestyle and relationship adjustments. These hints and tips may help you feel more in control of the factors that will speed your recovery:
  • Dress every day as if you are going out—it reminds you and your family that you are on the road to recovery and the next phase of your life.
  • Take up any offer of cardiac rehabilitation (provided free by the NHS). Evidence shows that starting gentle exercise with the support of physiotherapists and nurses is the best possible way of fast-tracking recovery from a heart attack or cardiac surgery.
  • Talk to your family about the importance of exercise in your recovery, and explain that it is safe to sweat or pant a little. Help them to understand that by exerting yourself, you are making your heart stronger. Having your family worry unnecessarily can trigger anger, frustration and a feeling of powerlessness.
  • Never stop taking your medication without medical advice, even if you are having side effects—you might be putting your life at risk. Discuss any problems with your GP or cardiologist.

Family matters

Credit: ChayTee
A heart attack is a life-changing event that unsettles everyone in the family, but family ties can become stronger as a result of going through adversity.
"A heart attack is a life-changing event, but family ties can become stronger as a result of going through adversity"
The lifestyle changes that are needed to lay the foundations for recovery require a tough, consistent approach. Family members of heart attack victims should consider these points:
  • Coming home can be daunting after being in hospital, where help is always at hand; recovery can gather pace in familiar surroundings, but be prepared for a period of adjustment
  • Patience and commitment to change are key and your relative will be counting on you for encouragement and support
  • Avoid being overprotective and try to remember the patient as the independent person from before the heart attack
  • Be understanding if your relative has a lapse from the recovery programme, and don’t allow him or her to be disheartened or give up
  • Be alert for signs of excessive anxiety or depression because they are easier to treat in the early stages before taking hold
  • Take one day at a time: focus on what your relative can do at that moment without worrying too much about what may or may not happen in the future
  • Try to carry on as normal as far as possible; avoid changing your routine or cancelling important events to accommodate your relative
  • Ensure that you look after yourself too—eat well, have enough rest and exercise and give yourself some time away from the responsibilities of caring

Help from outside the family

Not everyone is lucky enough to have family support. But there is plenty of other help available through cardiac rehabilitation programmes, which can give heart attack patients a 26 per cent greater chance of survival after five years.
"The efforts of professionals can improve quality of life, minimise anxiety and reduce the likelihood of return hospital admissions"
The efforts of nurses, dietitians, physiotherapists, psychologists and occupational therapists can improve quality of life, minimise anxiety and reduce the likelihood of return hospital admissions.
Banner credit: Diamond Dogs
Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
 

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...