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Preventing a Second Heart Attack

separator 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 success rates.

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 limiting?

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 path.

The American Heart Association; The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
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