A Lifetime of Healthy Living
Right after a heart attack or a procedure such as angioplasty or heart bypass, you have a lot of people supporting you. Doctors, nutritionists, staff members at cardio rehab-all are there to help you figure out what you need to do to get healthy again and stay that way. Family and friends are probably there for you too, supporting your need to get on a healthier track.
But as the months go by and life starts getting back to normal, it can be hard to keep up your motivation.
Make short-term and long-term goals.
It's practically impossible to do a complete overhaul of your lifestyle all at once. See if you can make an appointment with your doctor, nutritionist, nurse practitioner or someone else on your healthcare team, and talk about your goals. Plan things like how much exercise should you work up to during the first year and how you can learn to change your meals. Consider keeping track of your progress in journal or calendar.
Involve your family.
You can't do this all by yourself. If you're the main cook in your house, you're doing everyone a favor by preparing food that's good for you, because it's good for them too. If you're not the cook, it might be more difficult to get everyone to change. Talk with your spouse about the need to change. If you can learn to share the cooking, that might help too. Get them to exercise with you too. Do your best to get everyone in the household on the same page.
Explore ways to manage stress.
Study after study shows that stress is bad for heart health. You can address this by getting regular exercise, learning meditation, becoming active in a religious or spiritual practice, taking calming yoga classes…the opportunities are endless. If you don't know where to begin, talk with your doctor or other healthcare provider for suggestions. And take note-a recent study of stress and heart patients showed that patients who benefited from a stress management program did not enter the study complaining of stress. Stress is part of your life whether you realize it or not.
Don't let finances hold you back.
You can have a defeatist attitude by thinking, "Health clubs are expensive and so is healthy eating. I can't afford to change my lifestyle." You don't have to join health clubs and eat expensive fish several times a week to have a healthy lifestyle. Recipes with beans, whole grain rice and vegetables are tasty and inexpensive. Your exercise program can consist of walking, working out with used exercise equipment, buying an exercise video or two, etc.
Have the courage to make big life changes.
Illness can often put your life into sharp perspective. Listen to your intuition. If a voice inside is telling you to change jobs, move to a different place, even completely change professions, go for it. Taking a path that will add joy to your life is a positive step.
Stay in regular contact with your healthcare providers.
It's important to monitor your health regularly. And regular appointments can also help you stay on track with your new lifestyle changes. You can talk with your providers about any problems you're having, and talk about possible solutions.
Find others who have been successful.
Support from other people who are going through the same thing you are is a big help. Consider joining groups for people who've had similar experiences as you. Your healthcare providers can probably help you find a good group.
It can be hard to accept the fact that life has to be different. Don't be surprised if you find yourself slipping up from time to time. Small setbacks are normal. Just be sure to reach out to friends, family and healthcare providers when you realize you need a little extra motivation.
American Journal of Cardiology, 2002;89. S Holt. The Natural Way to a Healthy Heart. M. Evans and Company, Inc., New York, New York, 10017, 1999. B Yates. Heart Health for Black Women. Marlowe and Company, New York, New York, 2000.