Looking after yourself after a heart attack

September 1, 2019| Health and Wellbeing /

Leaving hospital is just the beginning of your recovery from a heart attack. Most people survive a first heart attack and go on to live healthy, productive lives. But after one heart attack, unfortunately you’re at increased risk of another. Here are some tips to help you feel better - and stay well - into the future.

Healthy lifestyle

Every heart specialist will tell you that eating well and being active will boost your chances of a long, healthy life. And it will make you feel good. This is particularly important after a heart attack because a poor lifestyle can lead to problems that precipitate a heart attack. Dr Andris Ellims a cardiologist of Victoria Heart who practices at Epworth Richmond and Epworth Freemasons talks risks:

The major modifiable risk factors for heart attacks include elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Minimising these risk factors by improving your diet, increasing your regular exercise, losing weight and completely stopping smoking can dramatically improve your overall cardiovascular risk
— Dr Andris Ellims, Cardiologist, Epworth HealthCare

Managing your risk factors

High cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes all increase your risk of a heart attack, so it’s important to work with your doctor to manage these conditions. If you have been prescribed new medications to treat these conditions, it is essential you take them as directed. To help keep track of them, talk to your pharmacist about a pill box marked with days of the week, and if you’re worried about side effects talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Do not stop taking your medication if you start feeling better. Most medications need to be taken long term to manage heart problems, so it’s important to continue.

Know the warning signs

No two heart attacks are the same, and you may only feel one symptom of many, so you should know all the signs. If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, call 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance. The sooner you get help, the greater your chance of survival. Every minute counts to prevent lasting damage. Here’s a list of common signs of a heart attack:

  • Discomfort, pain, heaviness, tightness or pressure in your chest

  • Discomfort, pain, heaviness, or tightness in your arm(s), shoulder(s), neck, jaw or back

  • A choking feeling in your throat

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Sweating

  • Dizziness or light headedness

High risk times

Take extra care of yourself during hot weather because it can cause dehydration which can lower your blood pressure. The heat can also interfere with medicines for high blood pressure or extra fluid such as diuretics. Discuss the best management of this with your doctor.

Winter also has its risks. If you have a heart condition, the flu can make you seriously ill. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated to prevent the flu, and if you do get the flu, ask about how any medicines to treat it could interact with medicines for your heart condition.


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