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    After a Heart Attack: The Road to Recovery

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    About the author

    Dr. Mary Williams, RN, DC

    Dr. Mary Williams, R.N., D.C is a Doctor of Chiropractic with an extensive background as a Registered Nurse and experienced Core Instructor for the American Heart Association. She has over 30 years of hands-on medical and instructional experience.

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    While heart attacks are justifiably feared, the fact is most people survive their first heart attacks and go on to lead lives just as productive as the lives they lived prior to the attack. In order to avoid a second heart attack, however, there are some things to take into consideration. When recovering from a heart attack, keep the following in mind:

    man walking in park

    Get Active... Gradually

    In most (though not all) cases, one of the contributing factors of a heart attack is a lack of physical activity. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, particularly if your profession has you sitting most of the day, can cause a host of physical issues. If you are recovering from a heart attack, you need to not only lead a life as active as what you led before your attack, but more active. While the natural inclination is to eliminate any activity that will put undue stress on your heart, you actually should start exercising more than you were. This should happen gradually. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block and working your way up to more, but the key is to keep increasing your activity level.

    Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs

    One of the best ways to ensure you create a good plan for rehabilitation and stick to it is to do so with the support and guidance of medical professionals. Cardiac rehabilitation programs do just that. It's possible that you'll be able to enroll in one (or that you'll be enrolled in one by your doctor) while in the hospital. Take advantage of all these programs offer - it may be just the support you need.

    woman relaxing on couch

    Work Can Wait

    Depending on your profession, time away from work can seem like it's causing more stress than going back, but your doctor will give you a recommended period of time to stay home. Stick to this recommendation as much as possible. Usually the time off is somewhere between two weeks and three months, and while to some people any time off may seem like you're taking a forced vacation, remember that you are improving your heart health. That's a job you must do before you can go back to work, or you risk a second attack.

    senior on bike

    Pay Attention to your Body

    This cannot go overstated. A contributing factor in the survivability of a heart attack is how long it took the person experiencing the attack to seek help. Now that you're in recovery, listening to what your body is trying to tell you is doubly important. While some chest pain can be a normal part of recovering from a heart attack, it is vitally important that you consult your physician with any chest pain you feel. Leave it to your doctor's judgment to determine what is serious and what isn't. It's what they're paid to do.

    Don't Ignore your Mental State

    Given that heart attack so directly impacts your heart health it is easy to, while in recovery, care only about your physical state. The problem with that is a heart attack not only has an impact on your body, but can also impact your emotional well-being. One of the common ways this manifests itself is depression. If you find yourself experiencing prolonged symptoms of depression (these include trouble sleeping and eating, lethargy, and a general indifference toward the things about which you used to be passionate) you should consult your physician immediately.

    Be Prepared

    Lastly, it's important that you are prepared in the event of cardiac arrest brought on by a heart attack. Cardiac arrest can be reversed when treated within the first few minutes. Since eighty percent of cardiac arrests happen at home, it's important that someone in your household knows how to act during such an emergency. CPR certification is one way a family member, friend, or loved one could be prepared. Having CPR certification and AED training could mean the difference between life and death in the event of cardiac arrest.

    Photo by: Bob Jagendorf (Flickr)


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