In this week’s Texas Health Resources/Go Red for Women post, a Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital cardiac rehabilitation manager shares recovery tips and suggestions from American Heart Association.
Well first off – thank your lucky stars. Heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans, and each year tens of thousands of Americans experience a heart attack. But the good news is you’re a survivor. And how you choose to use your second chance at life is up to you.
First things’ first – understanding why you had a heart attack with some Heart 101. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), your heart is a muscle, and muscles need oxygen to work properly. When your heart, for whatever reason, doesn’t receive the oxygen it needs – you experience a heart attack. This happens when the blood flowing into your heart carrying oxygen is severely reduced or cut off completely.
What causes this disruption you might ask? Several reasons. Oxygen supply can slowly diminish due to the buildup of fat, cholesterol or plaque in your arteries – otherwise known as atherosclerosis. When the oxygen supply is completely cut off, this is usually due to a clot in one of your arteries, most likely caused from that plaque buildup that’s been happening over time.
You might also be wondering – well, I felt fine, so why didn’t I have any advanced warning?
It’s a simple answer to a complicated question. Sometimes cardiovascular diseases have no advanced symptoms. Sometimes you might experience classic symptoms like chest pain and sometimes you might have very few symptoms at all. This is why it’s so important to know your family history, recognize your risk factors for developing heart disease and visit with your doctor.
Now you tell me! What do I do now? How do I get healthier and not have another heart attack in the future, because I would really like to be here for my family and friends. Brenda Doughty, RN-BC, manager of the cardiac rehabilitation program at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital offers the following tips, in conjunction with the AHA:
- Step number one – make sure you visit with your doctor regularly. He or she will give you a thorough evaluation and help you come up with a great survival plan. Depending on the severity of the heart attack, muscle damage and other factors – your recovery and lifestyle will most likely change – such as if you’re a smoker, you must quit. No one likes to change, but unfortunately we all go through changes at some point in our life.
- Step number two – get moving. Once you’ve fully recovered from your heart attack, it’s up to you to get better. Once your doctor has cleared you for exercise, start moving! Start with walking and build up as best you can. Walking for as little as thirty minutes a day can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease, and a recurrent heart attack.
- Step number three – eat better. Sure who doesn’t love a big juicy steak and loaded baked potato? When we indulge in things that are not great for us too often, our stomachs might be happy, but our arteries aren’t. Everything in moderation. Again – talk with your doctor about your diet, and the most important thing to remember here is to BE HONEST. Be honest with yourself and especially with your physician. Managing your diet reduces obesity which is a huge contributing factor to cardiovascular diseases. Eat well balanced meals high in fiber and low in saturated fats.
- Step number four – know your family history. There are some things you just can’t change through diet and exercise, and that’s genetics. Diet and exercise can help, but if Dad had it, and Grandpa had it and so forth – chances are, you will have it too. But the good news is, thanks to modern medicine and research provided through funding from the American Heart Association, there are devices, medications and other tools that will keep your heart healthy and more importantly – keep you alive.
“You’ve had a heart attack, but you’re now a survivor,” said Doughty. “Do yourself a favor – and don’t waste that second lease on life. Continue to be a survivor and take your health into your own hands. Be proactive about your heart health – if not for yourself, for someone who loves you!”
Understanding your risk for a heart attack: