8 Common Mistakes Heart Patients Make
It’s estimated that every year, over 700,000 people in the U.S. have a heart attack. And if you've already had a heart attack, you're at a higher risk for having another one. Fortunately, research shows that making healthy lifestyle changes—even later in life—may stop and actually reverse heart damage.
Make sure that you don’t fall for some of these common misconceptions about heart health after a heart attack. Even if you make just a few healthy changes, you can significantly reduce your risk for another heart attack.
Mistake 1: Thinking all heart attacks are the same
If your uncle had a heart attack even after a lifetime of eating low-fat foods and jogging every day, you may think changing your own lifestyle is not worth the trouble. Or, maybe your friend had to change jobs after his heart attack, so you fear you'll need to give up your desk job, too. Don’t assume that your experiences will be the same as theirs.
Instead, work with your doctor to learn what's best for you personally. Everyone has different genetics and unique risk factors based on their personal lifestyle. It's important to work with your doctor, friends and family, to understand and develop a plan that is appropriate for you.
Mistake 2: Not adopting a healthier lifestyle
Learning to eat better may seem like the challenge of a lifetime--not to mention giving up cigarettes or making time for regular exercise. Yet, these are some of the absolute best things you can do for a happier, healthier future.
Important steps that can help you prevent a second heart attack include:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly, according to your doctor’s advice
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and calories
- Control your weight
- Manage your blood pressure
- Control your cholesterol levels
- Control diabetes or any other blood sugar abnormalities
- Visit your doctor regularly to make sure you’re on track
Mistake 3: Staying stuck in grief or depression
You may have lost your healthy self-image or the ability to do important things in your life. Any major life change will bring feelings of loss and may require a grieving process.
You and your family may need to work through a variety of emotions after your heart attack. Keep in mind that doing so leads to a positive, constructive future.
If you are overwhelmed with feelings of grief or depression, don't hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.
Mistake 4: Giving up on heart medicines
Don't stop taking your medicines without talking to your doctor. Work with your provider to determine what your choices are and what these medicines can do for you in terms of risk versus benefit. Ask for help in choosing the medications that:
- Work the best for you
- Have the fewest side effects
- Are affordable
- You'll be comfortable taking
- Fit with your daily schedule
Mistake 5: Tiptoeing around your family
Think about it: If you quit smoking and everyone else in the family quits as a result, you'll be helping everyone. Don't be afraid to make a big deal about your attempts at a healthy lifestyle. Ask your loved ones to give you as much support as possible.
Mistake 6: Staking your life on yesterday's truths
In many cases, the treatments doctors relied on just a few years ago already are considered outdated. There have been dramatic changes in medicines and procedures, so stay up-to-date with regular visits to your healthcare team.
Mistake 7: Shunning exercise
Maybe you're worried it will overstress your heart, but regular exercise actually may be one of the best things you can do for your heart. It's crucial for someone who's already had a heart attack to exercise properly under the advice of a doctor. Get an exercise routine designed just for you, based on your physical condition and your needs and interests.
Exercise can help people control risks related to weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. One excellent way to get started is to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
Mistake 8: Not "bothering" your doctor with questions
Living with heart conditions can be hard to navigate on your own, but your doctor is your greatest ally, your health care partner. By working with a doctor that you really trust, like the experienced cardiologists of Gwinnett Medical Group, you will have access to the latest technology, up-to-date treatment options and extensive resources.