Preventing a Second Heart Attack
Probably one of the few things that’s good about having a
heart attack at all is that it puts your heart condition in the forefront of
your mind. If you’ve had one heart attack, an important goal now is to prevent
having a second one.
The best way to do this is to educate yourself about your
condition as well as you possibly can. Ask your healthcare providers to
recommend a good book about heart disease and managing risk factors. Work
closely with your healthcare team, asking them questions about what you need to
do to reduce your risk of having another heart attack.
Some of the things people who have had a heart attack
should do include:
Take part in cardiac rehabilitation
This is something everyone who’s had a heart attack should
do. These programs generally consist of several weeks of supervised exercise
plus discussions with your healthcare team about medication, a healthy food plan, stress reduction and other lifestyle changes you’ll need to make.
Cardiac rehab can make a big
difference. A recent study showed that only 5 percent of the patients who went
through rehab died during the first three years after a heart attack, but 26
percent of the people who did not do a rehab program died in the same
period of time. Read our
Cardio News story for more information. If for some reason your doctor did not recommend cardiac rehab
for you, ask anyone on your healthcare team whether it’s something you should
take part in.
Reduce the risk factors you can control
Do you smoke? If so, you probably know now’s the
time to quit. Smoking increases the risk of having a second
heart attack among people who’ve survived a first one. If you’ve tried to quit
before and weren’t
successful, why not ask for help from your doctor or other member of your
healthcare team? Many studies
have shown that people who get help from their healthcare providers have higher
How’s your diet? Have you identified any eating
patterns you have that might have put your heart in jeopardy before? Do you know
what kinds of foods you should be eating more of and which ones you should be
Are you exercising regularly? If not, your
healthcare team can help you get started. Regular exercise is an important
component of any plan to reduce your heart attack risk.
Are you sticking with your medication regimen? If
you’re having trouble with any of your medications, be sure to talk to your
healthcare team about this.
How well do you manage stress? Are you taking time
out of each day to relax and take a break from the daily grind? Is there a part
of each day when you put yourself and your health first?
Create an emergency plan. You’ll need this
so you can act quickly in case you experience the signs of a second heart
attack. Remember that not all heart attacks are alike, and symptoms of a second
heart attack could be
different than the ones from a previous heart attack. Call 9-1-1 if you notice
any of these signs:
- Chest pain, tightness or other chest discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body,
such as the jaw, one or both arms, the back, neck or stomach
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness
- Shortness of breath
Make sure that your family
members and co-workers also know to call 9-1-1 right away if you experience any
of these signs.
In case you need to call
emergency medical personnel, write down any medications you’re currently taking
and any medications you’re allergic to. Keep the list someplace easily
accessible to everyone in your household and office.
Keep your medical appointments
The best way to know whether all the things you’re doing to
take care of yourself are actually working is to visit your doctor regularly.
You’ll find out whether your blood pressure is under control, whether your blood
fats, such as cholesterol and triglycerides, are in the healthy range, etc.
Staying on top of all these interlocking pieces will help keep you on the right
The American Heart Association; The National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.