By: Rick Black, PT, DPT, MS, ProMedica Senior Care Corporate Rehabilitation Director
Practicing heart-healthy habits is an important part of healthy aging, but how do lifestyle choices need to change after having a heart attack? Medical experts used to recommend rest as one of the only post-heart attack care regimens. Now, through a better understanding of how the heart functions after a heart attack, there are more tactics for patients to use that can allow them to return to an active and full life.
After the heart has experienced something as strenuous as a heart attack, it’s important to take proper care afterward to ensure further damage doesn’t occur. Making changes to your diet can be a good place to start. A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated fats and cholesterol, high in fiber and includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods that have high sodium and fat content should be avoided as much as possible.
Slowly reintroducing moderate exercise has multiple benefits to strengthen the heart. After a heart attack, it’s important to find an activity that isn’t too strenuous but has a high enough intensity to result in a positive cardiovascular effect. If guidance is needed, working with a healthcare professional who can closely monitor the heart during different exercises can help patients get acclimated with a new exercise routine.
Having a strong support system that encourages heart-healthy lifestyle choices is an important asset for those recovering from a heart attack. For some, eliminating long-standing habits may be a crucial step toward achieving long-term heart health. Friends and family can play an important role in the success of this by supporting the recommendations made by the health care professionals caring for their loved ones. The medical experts may introduce smoking cessation techniques, new diet and exercise guidelines, stress reduction and blood pressure management tools into the patient’s everyday routine. Though these changes can be overwhelming at first, having an encouraging support system can help make the transition an easier process.
It is important to remember that post-heart attack care will vary for everyone, so some regimens will be more intricate than others. Those needing to make more significant lifestyle changes shouldn’t worry about implementing everything overnight. Slowly introducing new practices and changing habits gradually is a more sustainable approach to ensure heart-healthy choices become part of a daily routine.