Struggling to get back in action after a heart attack? Click here to learn more about follow-up cardiac care at NCH.
As wake-up calls go, nothing takes center stage like a heart attack. Each year, about 715,000 Americans have a heart attack, and of those, 525,000 are first-time heart attacks.
Here's the good news: Most heart attack survivors enjoy many more years of normal life. Paul Ruzumna, MD, FACC, chief of cardiology at Northwest Community Healthcare, offers four post-heart-attack tips to help you walk the road to recovery.
Activity – That part about "walking" the road to recovery? Dr. Ruzumna isn't kidding. "In many cases, doctors will recommend that heart attack survivors get more physical activity than before their heart attack," he says. While rest is advisable—Dr. Ruzumna says it takes the heart muscle about eight weeks to heal—exercise will help lower stress and control weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.
Balance – "At first, every twinge in the chest triggers fear," according to Dr. Ruzumna, "and that's understandable." But it's important to find balance—and to tell your doctor if anxiety or depression lingers. "There's a balance between patients becoming more aware of their bodies and feeling fear that anything in the chest is another heart attack," he says.
Take heart in knowing this: Most patients avoid repeat heart attacks by making lifestyle changes and taking medications to lower risk factors, Dr. Ruzumna says.
Cardiac rehab – Studies show that cardiac rehabilitation saves lives. In NCH's cardiac rehab program, patients exercise in a supervised setting. "With supervised exercise, patients regain confidence in being able to push themselves—to work up a sweat—without causing another heart attack," Dr. Ruzumna says.
Diet – Dietary changes can help control weight and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Through programs such as cardiac rehab, Dr. Ruzumna encourages patients to set long-term diet and weight-management goals. "Recovery from a heart attack is a marathon, not a sprint. The good news is, most people return to a very normal life after a heart attack. In some cases, it's a healthier life with a better diet and more activity than before."