There's no changing the fact if you or a loved one has suffered a heart attack: A portion of the heart muscle has died and there is some risk it could happen again. Now what can you do?
According to a recent American Heart Association report, every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are first-time heart attacks and 210,000 happen in people who have already had one.
Individualized Care Plans
But everyone is different. Ivan Salgo, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer at Philips Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions, stresses that each heart attack patient has a unique identity that encompasses age, lifestyle, physical condition, preexisting chronic disease, and many other factors.
"Planning for life following your heart attack begins in the hospital," Dr. Salgo says. "An echocardiogram performed after the attack reveals the spectrum of damage that the heart has sustained and allows your physician and care team to advise you about a health management plan. That plan is not merely a physical assessment, however, but also a behavioral roadmap — a strategy to get better and to stay well."
Therefore, the wise patient's first step is to fully and completely understand the care plan and prepare to follow it rigorously. After hospital discharge, depending on your specific situation, recommended recovery and prevention activities will often include participation in a cardiac rehabilitation program, where you'll gain strength and stamina, and meet others who are working to recover and to gain habits that decrease the risk of recurrent heart problems.
Other commonly prescribed (and common sense) actions that you can take to prevent additional heart attacks and improve your overall physical status include:
- Follow your primary caregiver's plan to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, or other chronic health problems
- Fully and carefully comply with your medication schedule
- Stop smoking
- Eat a heart healthy diet
- Become more physically active under the guidance of your healthcare provider
‘B Positive’ Isn’t Just a Blood Type
A positive, optimistic attitude will provide the anchor for all these sensible actions.
"No one wants to have a heart attack, but for many people it serves not only as a wake-up call, but as an opportunity," says Paul Adams, Senior Director of Product Management for Philips Lifeline and a cardiothoracic nurse who practiced in the UK.
"The fact is, no matter how old or physically compromised you may be, following these steps will produce a better quality of life for as long as you live,” Adams adds. “They won't simply lower your risk of another heart attack — they'll make you feel better and more alive. They can be challenging and difficult, but you're worth the effort."
Have Access to Help When You Need It
Another sensible step is to enable yourself to quickly access help if, despite your best efforts, heart attack symptoms recur or another emergency arises, especially for someone who lives alone. Philips Lifeline offers a variety of medical alert devices that can quickly connect you to a Lifeline Response Associate with the push of a button to get you the help you request. After all, time matters when it comes to your heart.