Does a Heart Attack Mean the End of Life as I Know It?
There is very little that puts more trepidation into the minds of our patients than the prospect of a heart attack. We even use the term to describe some of the most dramatic goings-on in our lives. To be sure, with heart disease being the leading killer of adult males and females in the United States, we should be very concerned about our cardiovascular health, especially if we have any of the risk factors of heart disease.
For those that have experienced a heart attack and are now recovering, there is the sometimes-inaccurate conception that their life as they knew it is now over. But this is not necessarily true. So, let’s delve into what exactly a heart attack is and what recovery from one looks like. A heart attack occurs when the heart no longer receives enough nutritious oxygenated blood, usually because of plaque buildup in the arteries known as atherosclerosis. Most heart attacks are preceded by chest pain or angina but can occur without warning. Much like other organs and structures in our body, if the oxygen and blood supply is cut off for long enough, tissue begins to die or is rendered disabled. And this is precisely what happens after a heart attack. Parts of the heart will not function as they once did, and the overall strength of the heart is diminished.
Because of this, many patients believe that they need to severely limit their activity level to maintain their remaining heart strength. However, this may only weaken the heart further, as the heart is a muscle that needs to be exercised appropriately. It is worth mentioning that after a heart attack, you should follow your cardiologist’s recommendations very closely as there are activities and strain levels that may need to be avoided for some time or permanently after a heart attack.
What You Should Do After a Heart Attack
Even if you’ve had a mild heart attack, it should serve as a wake-up call to improve yourself, and this begins with your diet and exercise, starting with light exercise about ten days after the event. Losing excess weight is of paramount importance and should be one of the priorities you pursue after your heart attack. This can be achieved by limiting calories through a proper diet and burning calories through the exercises that your cardiologist has cleared you to do.
Take an intense look at your lifestyle habits. Lifestyle is also an essential part of continued health. Reducing stress, eliminating alcohol, and stopping smoking are three keys to giving your body the ability to recover after such a traumatic event.
Focus on your brain. Recent research has led us to believe that the trauma of a heart attack can speed the onset of cognitive impairment. By keeping your brain sharp with puzzles, reading, and proper diet and exercise programs, you can counter that. Don’t confine yourself at home, worried and stressing about your heart.
Don’t Be a Hero
You will now likely have some limitations, especially in the early days after your heart attack. This is not the time to over-exert yourself or push your recovery too quickly. It’s always tempting to move on to the next phase of your recovery before you finish the one before. Avoid that temptation. Instead, keep your appointment with your cardiologist, follow your recovery plan closely and enlist the help of family and friends around you to ensure your recovery progresses smoothly as possible.
If you decide that life will never be as it once was, you are depriving yourself of immeasurable quality of life, and you may even be doing your heart a disservice. Instead, focus on living life to its fullest within the bounds of what your cardiologist allows you to do. The power of a clear mind and a healthy lifestyle can return you to new heights even after a heart attack.