Question: What are some easy changes we can incorporate at home for my dad to help minimize the chances of another heart attack?
Answer: I’m sorry your dad had a heart attack, but it’s great you’re helping to support him. Having a heart attack is a life-changing event. According to the CDC, approximately 25% of heart attacks that occur each year happen to people who have already had a heart attack. The good news is there are things that can be done to lower the risk of an initial or subsequent heart attack.
There are things that can be done to lower the risk of an initial or subsequent heart attack.
First, be a partner with your primary care provider or heart specialist in managing your health. Some important steps to consider:
- Have an action plan. Know what symptoms to watch for and what to do if you have them. For example, your provider may prescribe nitroglycerin if you have chest pain. Ask your provider for an “action plan” with symptoms to watch for and steps to take.
- Take all medications as prescribed. Your provider or pharmacist should review all medications, including supplements and other over-the-counter medications. If the medication plan is complicated, the provider may be able to make some changes to make the plan easier.
- If you have other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, controlling these conditions can help reduce the risk of another heart attack. Your provider may want you to keep track of blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, frequency of symptoms, or other numbers.
- Get the right type and amount of physical activity. Your provider can recommend an activity plan that’s safe for you. For example, a healthy goal for most adults is two hours and 30 minutes or more of physical activity, in addition to your regular activities, each week.
- Eat right. Your provider can recommend a healthy eating plan. Cut down on sodium (salt) and unhealthy fats by preparing more meals at home and limiting the amount of restaurant meals you eat. When preparing meals at home, use whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and plant-based or lean protein sources (such as tofu, beans, skinless chicken breast, or white flesh fish like cod or tilapia). Avoid highly processed foods such as frozen dinners, chips, ice cream, cookies and such as these kinds of foods tend to have a large amount of unhealthy fats and sodium.
- Lose weight, if needed. Your provider can help you set weight loss goals and recommend a healthy eating plan for weight loss.
- See your provider as often as recommended. Your provider may want to do tests several times a year to check the health of your heart.
Next, if you smoke, quit. You can find free help at 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669). And if you drink alcohol, talk to your provider to understand what amount is safe to consume. In general, it’s recommended the number of daily alcoholic drinks be limited to two drinks or less for men, and one drink or less for women. However, for those who have heart disease, other chronic conditions, or take certain medicines, the healthiest and safest option is to choose not to drink.
For people who live alone, getting a personal emergency response device may provide some peace of mind knowing you can call for help right away if something isn’t right.
Finally, laugh, have fun, spend time with people you love (or at least like!), and enjoy your life! After having a heart attack, it’s common to experience feelings of stress, sadness or worry. If you’re having these feelings, it’s important to talk to your provider and ask for help.