Heart Attack Recovery: What You Must Do After Surviving Cardiac Arrest

If you’ve had a heart attack in your lifetime, you’re not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes around 735,000 Americans each year have a heart attack — and 210,000 of them have already gone into cardiac arrest once before. This makes it clear that even if you’ve survived one attack, there’s a relatively high chance you could have a second episode.

After you’ve had a cardiac event, it’s vital that you know how to properly recover. Here are the steps you should take after a heart attack to ensure a healthy and long life.

Take it easy the first week of recovery

Doctor with patient experiencing heart problems

Doctor with patient experiencing heart problems. | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

Early recovery from a heart attack can be challenging, so make sure you’re taking plenty of time to rest when you return from the hospital. Cleveland Clinic recommends spreading your daily activities throughout the day and stopping when you feel fatigued. In the first few weeks, allow yourself more time to accomplish tasks than it normally may take you.

While rest is important, try not to spend all day in bed when you get home, either. Simple exercises, like walking, can help you get back to your normal schedule while also assisting in your recovery. As you regain your strength, you can go back to more strenuous household chores.

Allow yourself to feel emotional after the attack

Cleveland Clinic notes around a quarter of heart attack patients feel depressed or afraid after they go back to their daily life. If this sounds like what you’re going through, know that this is completely normal. And as you adjust, the blues should also start to subside.

Keeping to a schedule can also help stave away depression. Try to get up at the same time each morning, go about your day-to-day activities the best you can, and keep to a healthy sleep schedule. Incorporating socializing and light physical activity can also boost your endorphins and get you feeling like your old self again.

Start immediately making changes to your lifestyle

Balanced diet concept

Healthy foods | JulijaDmitrijeva/iStock/Getty Images

Chances are you may have had some unhealthy habits before your heart attack. To prevent a future episode, make healthy lifestyle changes immediately upon returning home. The National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends eating a diet full of fresh produce, whole grains, and nuts and seeds. Additionally, choose heart-healthy oils to cook with, like extra virgin olive oil — and avoid deep fried foods are sugary treats.

If you weren’t physically active before, you should also aim to incorporate more of this into your life. As stated before, walking is a great way to get moving at first. Aim to get a 30-minute walk in every day to boost your cardiac health.

Take your meds and enroll in a program for cardiac rehabilitation

Upon leaving the hospital after a heart attack, it’s more than likely you’ve been given a litany of medications to take. Make sure you know how much and how often you should be taking each one to help heal your heart and prevent future attacks. Even if you’re feeling better, don’t stray from doctor’s orders without their permission.

Additionally, Harvard Health explains many rehab centers offer cardiac rehab programs you should take advantage of once you’re a few weeks out of the hospital. These programs typically involve a few hour-long sessions per week for 12 weeks with a coach who helps you establish healthy routines and lifestyle changes post-attack.

Know the signs of another attack

doctor in a white coat holding a symbol to indicate heart health

Doctor holding a heart-shaped ball | iStock.com

As stated before, a large number of folks who have one heart attack will have another. And while you may be busily making changes to your lifestyle to help reduce your risk of a second episode, you should still know the signs of an attack.

The most common signs of a heart attack are discomfort in the chest and upper body, shortness of breath, pain in the jaw or neck, and nausea. Additionally, take note if you’re feeling unusually fatigued, breaking into a cold sweat, or having heartburn. These are less common symptoms, but even so, they could all point to a heart attack.

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