You can improve your health after a heart attack by making changes to your lifestyle.

General Guidelines for Managing Your Health after a Heart Attack

If You Smoke, Quit

Smoking can increase the amount of fatty material that collects in your arteries. In addition, nicotine containing cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder. It narrows blood vessels and subsequently increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Also remember that secondhand smoke is detrimental to your health. Make sure you are not exposed to cigarette smoke at all. When you quit smoking your risk of heart disease drops significantly within the first year.

Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

A diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body weight—three heart attack risk factors. Follow the meal plan recommended by your doctor. Also remember to supplement your diet was Omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that suggest that omega-3 fatty acids help to lower blood pressure, prevent heart arrhythmias, and may overall decrease your risk of heart attack.

Exercise Regularly

Follow your doctor’s recommendations for physical activity. After a heart attack, he or she will likely refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program, which will help you establish a life-long exercise plan and monitor your initial program. Choose exercises that you enjoy and that you will make a regular part of your day. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthy weight. For most people, this could include walking briskly or participating in another aerobic activity for at least 30 minutes per day.

If Obese, Lose Weight

Follow the dietary and exercise plan recommended by your doctor. Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of heart attack, and losing weight lowers that risk. To lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend. To maintain a healthy weight, eat an equal number of calories than you expend. One indicator of healthy weight is body mass index. BMI of 25 and above is associated with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease.

Take Medications As Directed

If your healthcare provider has prescribed medications for your heart condition, take them exactly as directed and report side effects to your health care provider. Do not skip pills or stop taking them without consulting your healthcare provider.

Drink Alcohol In Moderation

Heavy drinking is associated with increased risk of heart attack. Moderate drinking may lower the risk of heart attack. Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer or 4 ounces of wine or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. In addition, alcohol may interfere with your medications. Make sure to discuss your alcohol intake with your healthcare provider.

When to Contact Your Doctor

  • If you experience any chest pain or discomfort, call 911 for emergency medical assistance
  • If you become short of breath
  • If you have pain in your arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • If you develop new symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, lightheadedness, or dizziness
  • If any of your medications cause side effects