After the heart attack – that’s when the real work starts.
That’s when you have to do the walk and forget the talk. Focus only on yourself, and what you can and will do to prevent a second one, which is not uncommon.
After the heart attack, the first days and weeks after you get out of the hospital will be scary, that’s the truth. They may also be confusing, as you wade through all your discharge instructions, new medicines, diet changes and the like.
Listen, it could happen to you. Don’t blow this off as an “it has nothing to do with me” matter. I’ve treated thousands of patients over the past 35 years who have said: “I never thought it would happen to ME!”
As my dad used to ask me: “But what if it did?”
Your world will change.
But, if you focus on the things I’m about to tell you, you’ll recover and regain your strength…promise. They will help you get back to your life.
You can’t skip this step: Cardiac Rehab. Its goal is to teach you to cut the risk factors for future events.
- Pay attention to the recommendations about how to quit smoking, manage your blood pressure, measures to lower your cholesterol, increase your physical activity and finally, how to manage your Diabetes, if applicable, and lose weight, if that’s recommended.
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have developed national guidelines to help you lower the risk of future problems.
These guidelines help your doctor to develop a treatment plan for your individual risk factors.
➡ Make sure you know your goal numbers (such as blood sugar, blood pressure, etc.) and work with your rehabilitation specialists to meet them. The following should be your only goals after the heart attack.
Quit for good
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disability in the United States. Cigarette smoking results in a much higher risk of dying of coronary heart disease.(Click to learn more)
Smoking robs the heart of oxygen-rich blood and increases the effects of other risk factors, including blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, and physical inactivity.
- Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. It is the result of cholesterol accumulating on the artery walls, creating plaques. The arteries narrow, reducing blood flow to the heart.
Thinking about quitting smoking? Click here to learn where you can get help.
- The goal during Rehab: Keep it at less than 140/90 OR less than 130/80, if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
- Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 (systolic pressure is 120 AND diastolic pressure is less than 80).
**Systolic = the top number and Diastolic = the bottom number
- Pre-hypertension is systolic pressure from 120-139 OR diastolic pressure from 80-89.
- High blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 140 or higher OR a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher.
When blood pressure is higher, your heart has to work harder.
A few changes in your habits such as losing weight, eating less salt (Click here to learn how to cut sodium in your food) and taking part in regular physical activity will help to lower your blood pressure.
➡ If you have high blood pressure, staying on your medicines is critical. It will prevent a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and heart failure.
Be sure to monitor your pressure according to doctor’s orders and keep track of your results to show him/her at your next office visit.
Goal #3: Lower Blood Cholesterol
- Cholesterol levels rise if your body makes too much cholesterol or if you eat foods high in saturated fat and trans fat.
For high-risk patients with coronary heart disease, the focus of treatment will be to lower the cholesterol.
- You may need to change your eating habits and/or lose weight. It’s possible that your doctor will recommend medication as well as these lifestyle changes.
- Get at least 40 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (brisk walking, jogging, cycling, etc.) at least 3 to 4 days per week. Start slowly and work your way up.
Regular physical activity can help you stop smoking, lose weight, reduce your stress level, lower your blood pressure and increase your levels of the “good” cholesterol, HDL. No pills can do all that.
- Aerobic exercise, which uses the large muscles of the legs and arms, helps your heart work more efficiently.
Physical activities improve your strength, flexibility and balance while helping you to stay agile as you age.
Goal #5: Manage Your Weight
- Ideal body mass index (BMI) is 18.5–24.9 kg/m2.
Goal #6: Watch Your Waist Circumference
The recommended waist circumference is not more than 40 inches for men and not more than 35 inches for women.
Goal #7: Manage Diabetes: Blood sugar (glucose)
- Normal fasting blood glucose of less than 100 mg/dL
If you are diabetic, your **HbA1c (glycosylated haemoglobin) should be at or below 6.5 to 7 percent.
** There are red blood cells in your bloodstream that are made of a molecule called haemoglobin. Glucose (sugar) sticks to the haemoglobin to make a ‘glycosylated haemoglobin’ molecule, called “haemoglobin A1C or HbA1C.**
The HbA1C test is now one of the best ways to check diabetes is under control.
It is the blood test that gets sent to the laboratory, and it is done on the spot in some hospital clinics.
***Remember, the HbA1C is not the same as the glucose level.The more glucose in the blood, the more haemoglobin A1C or HbA1C will be present in the blood. Learn more about it here.
Managing diabetes is important to your long-term health, especially if you have heart disease.
- Diabetes is best controlled by diet, weight loss, physical activity, medicines and regular monitoring of your blood sugar.
Many studies have shown that medicines such as statins, aspirin, ACE-inhibitors and beta-blockers, which lower the risk of future heart problems, have even greater benefit in people with diabetes.
That’s why it’s important for you to start and continue taking these medicines. They will help to lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, which will decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
And, once more, please take this seriously, even if you’re currently healthy because as you’ve heard me say… “The more you know…”
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