Life after a heart attack: Steps for protecting your heart

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Submitted to OnFocus – WAUSAU, Wis. – You survived a heart attack. That’s news you can embrace. But the big question on your mind is, What now? How can you help keep your heart healthy and avoid further problems like another attack?

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do. Experts advise that you:

Take your medicine as prescribed. It’s not unusual for people who have had a heart attack to be on multiple medicines. Each one of them helps your heart in a different way, so it’s important that you take them exactly as your doctor prescribes.

You may be on medicines to:

  • Prevent blood clots.
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Prevent a second heart attack.
  • Reduce episodes of chest pain.

If you’re having trouble managing all your medicines, use a daily or weekly pillbox to organize them. Use a calendar or smartphone app to help you remember when to take them.

Attend your follow-up medical appointments. These appointments help your health care team keep track of your recovery. Make each visit count by preparing a list of questions you may have. Also, bring a list of all the medicines you take—including vitamins and over-the-counter drugs—to each appointment.

You should see your doctor within six weeks of your heart attack to help keep your recovery on track.

Make needed lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes can help you manage your risk factors. These might include:

  • Quitting smoking. Quitting now can lower your risk for dying of heart disease.
  • Losing weight. Shedding extra pounds can help lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.
  • Becoming more active. Regular exercise has many benefits, including weight loss, lower stress levels and lower blood pressure. Enrolling in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help you get started.

Join a cardiac rehab program. Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program to help people recover after a heart event. In it, you’ll learn how to exercise safely, how to eat a heart-healthy diet and how to manage stress. Ask your doctor for a referral.

Know all the symptoms of a heart attack. Unfortunately, having one heart attack does put you at increased risk for a second one. And if you do have another one, your symptoms may be different than they were the first time. So it’s important to know all the possible warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the body. These can include one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.
  • Nausea.
  • Light-headedness.

Call 911 if you experience any of these symptoms.

Sources: American Heart Association; American College of Cardiology; UpToDate

Aspirus is a non-profit, community-directed health system based in Wausau, Wisconsin. Its 8,700 employees are focused on improving the health and well-being of people throughout Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Aspirus serves communities through four hospitals in Michigan and six hospitals in Wisconsin, 50 clinics, home health and hospice care, pharmacies, critical care and air-medical transport, medical goods, nursing homes and a broad network of physicians. Aspirus has been recognized for three consecutive years by IBM Watson Health as a Top 15 Health System in its annual study identifying the top-performing health systems in the country. For more information, visit

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Author: News Desk

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