Your Guide To: Life After A Heart Attack

Make Healthy Choices

How can you move toward a healthier lifestyle?

Stop smoking. If you smoke, ask your provider about programs that help you stop.

Exercise every day. Exercise strengthens your heart muscle so it can pump blood more easily and strengthens other muscles so the heart doesn’t have to work so hard. It can help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure, decrease stress, decrease your cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of dying from another heart attack. Focus on aerobic exercise for an average of 40 minutes a day 3 to 4 days a week. Aerobic exercise—the type that raises your heart rate—can be as easy as a brisk, 30-minute walk. Start slowly and follow your provider’s advice Arthritis or other problems may make some exercises challenging. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be active. Again, your provider can help. If walking is too difficult or painful, try riding a stationary bike or swimming.

Eat heart-healthy. Diet changes can help lower your cholesterol level, weight, and blood pressure. Avoid high saturated fat, trans fat, and high cholesterol foods and shift to a leaner diet higher in fiber and lower in salt. That means more fruits and vegetables, and less dairy, butter, and red meat. Avoid fried foods and make good decisions when eating out. A dietitian or nutritionist can help.

Be active in bed. Don’t be afraid of having sex after a heart attack. As with other activity, you may have to start slowly and gradually work into your normal habits. Most people are at higher risk of heart-related problems during sex in the first couple of weeks after a heart attack. However, this risk becomes very small by around 6 weeks after the heart attack. Some of the medicines you may take after a heart attack can affect your interest in sex or the ability to have an erection or orgasm. Talk to your provider about when you can begin to have sex or if you think medicines may be causing problems. It’s important to communicate with your partner about your concerns as well.

Take your medicines. You may be taking medicine for your heart as well as for lowering cholesterol, controlling blood pressure, or for diabetes. Make sure you understand when and how to take your medicine, and take it correctly. Talk with your provider if the medicine causes problems for you. Don’t change or stop taking medicine on your own.

Reduce stress. Stress can increase your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, and make your heart disease worse. If you are under stress from work or home, get advice on stress reduction techniques or see a counselor for suggestions on how you can reduce your stress or change your response to stressful situations.

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