After a heart attack, it’s normal for many to fall into major depression. They will recognize their frailty for the first time. And the church of meds and doctor visits only adds to feeling overwhelmed.
Fortunately, for many of us, a myocardial infarction is a call to our health. A signal that something major happened, but we’re still getting another chance.
Not to downplay the emotional toll a heart attack has on us; not at all. Sitting with those helpless feelings and talking it through with an expert is quite valuable. But we won’t dive too much into that here today.
Surviving a Heart Attack
Sadly, only 1/2 of us will survive a heart attack. In fact, the way many find out they have arterial plaque in their coronary arteries is on autopsy.
Those who survive have an opportunity to live their healthiest lives ever. We’ve had patients who had an attack in their early 50s and changed things around to now live healthily into their 80s.
To survive a heart attack means that your myocardium suffered some damage but not enough to make it stop. It also means that your tactical approach from this point on can change your Heart Health drastically.
After a Heart Attack
Step 1, address the emotional side of it. Even if you don’t believe in ‘mental health,’ your attitude towards your cardiovascular health is one of the key driving forces to healing your heart and living a long and healthy life.
Early activity. Cardiologists are reluctant to recommend early activity, but with the right experts in the mix, almost everyone will benefit from movement after a heart attack to help improve their peripheral vascular response and cardiac output.
How much activity do I need and how much can I tolerate? How can I tell if I’m overdoing it or if I can keep pushing it.
Cardiac rehabilitation. Similar to exercise, this is a bit more involved, and the goal is gradually improving the person’s exercise capacity. Most insurance-based cardiac rehab programs aren’t up to snuff, but plenty of private rehab experts are great at their art.
Where can I find private cardiac rehab experts who will guide me through my heart attack recovery?
2. Medical Interventions
Medical intervention. Medications are an important part of the Heart Health recovery after a heart attack. It also depends on whether you had to have any stenting or other procedures done.
What medications do I need and for how long? What’s the purpose of each one and why is my doctor choosing them?
Blood glucose control. Blood sugar control isn’t just for diabetics. Glucose spikes will cause damage to vessels and circulation. It will impede recovery. You don’t need a fancy CGM, but you need to know how your blood glucose responds to foods & stress.
What is my blood sugar first thing in the morning and 2 hours after a meal? What is my blood sugar after certain foods, alcohol, stress, and exercise?
Address inflammation. Inflammation may be a factor in why we develop heart attacks. Atherosclerosis by itself isn’t too dangerous – it’s the instability of the plaque that matters more.
3. Lifestyle Changes
Dietary changes. Whether genetics or lifestyle habits lead to your attack, recovering from one requires fine-tuning your diet. A diet program should be tailored to you, not a cookie-cutter plan.
Am I getting enough whole foods in my diet? Is there anything processed I can cut out? Am I getting enough calories for my activity levels?
Sleep optimization. Heart muscle needs healing, arteries need to flow well again, and circulation has to go back to normal. This tissue healing can only happen with restful sleep. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but you can’t skip over it.
Did I have a restful sleep? Do I need to cut out the caffeine or alcohol? Do I need to go to bed earlier?
Stress management. Stress that you can cope with and manage is okay; it’s the excess stress that tends to make a heart attack recovery difficult.
Am I stressed? What 3 steps can I take right now to help reduce this stress level a little.
Education. Understand why the heart attack happened will help you prevent future heart attacks. The human body may be complicated but the basics of how it works and how it malfunctions is fairly easy to understand.