Heart Attack

Life after a Heart Attack – Should I worry?


The heart is one of the more vital organs in our body; injury to it can cost you your life. Many people who recover from heart disease have a lot of doubts about their future and how they should live to prevent another frightening episode. It is extremely scary for anyone who has a heart attack. Along with the chest pains, emergency hospital admission, and medical procedures – it undoubtedly changes everything about the person, both mentally and physically.

A long stay in the hospital after a heart attack and surgery brings a lot of perspective to that individual. After all, this is a life-changing event and it is inevitable to have feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression during this period, but it is important to think positively at this time and think about the kind of changes that needs to be implemented in order to live a healthier, longer life.

 

What causes a heart attack in the first place? 

Heart attack, cardiac arrest, stroke, and myocardial infarction are often used interchangeably, with many believing it to be the same. However, cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack or myocardial infarction, and stroke. It’s important to understand the difference between them because of the different management protocols for each of them. 

Cardiac arrest happens when the heart stops working, which leads to unconsciousness. This is often due to a malfunction within the heart. A heart attack/myocardial infarction (MI) occurs when the heart tissue experiences damage due to lack of blood reaching the organ. This is often the result of problems in the arteries that supply the flow of blood; narrowing of these vessels by plaque is usually what causes a heart attack or MI. 

A stroke is a little different still, as it can happen anywhere in the body. Stroke occurs due to a clot being dislodged in the blood vessels. This clot moves through the blood and can block any artery at any time, causing damage to the organs. 

However, after any kind of heart injury, it is crucial that the priority is in preventing another incidence. It is also really important to realize that having a heart attack in no way stops you from living your life. Many people believe that their life has ended after suffering from a heart attack, but that is far from the truth. 

 

What kind of care is needed to prevent another one?

Doctors recommend rest for two weeks to a few months depending on the severity of the damage caused to the heart. It is also encouraged that these individuals resume their normal jobs after consulting their healthcare provider to ensure that the nature of their work does not worsen their condition in any way. 

There are a number of care instructions issued by the hospital before they discharge a patient who has undergone treatment for a heart attack. These instructions include:

  • Quit smoking – Smoking harms the body in multiple ways. Apart from the damage it causes to the lungs, the nicotine raises blood pressure and narrows the vessels’ lumen.

Smoking

 Smoking increases the risk of heart attack. | Source: freepik.com

  • Taking medicines at the right time – All medications prescribed by the physician should be taken at the right time in the right dose. These medicines are likely to prevent another heart attack.
  • Participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program – This is a program especially for those who have suffered cardiac issues. A support group will help individuals get back to life and do all the mundane activities they did prior to their heart attack. 
  • Manage your blood pressure – Most often, people who suffer from a myocardial infarction have raised blood pressure. This leads to hardening of the arterial walls and negatively affects the heart’s health. Diet changes can also help reduce high blood pressure, for instance, eliminating excess salt.
  • Keep blood sugar in control – If you have diabetes, make sure you take your diabetic medications so that your blood sugar stays within range. Excess glucose in the blood can cause a lot of harm to the arteries and significantly affect heart health. 
  • Manage cholesterol levels – Cholesterol clogs blood vessels and raises blood pressure; therefore, it is essential to keep cholesterol levels in the normal range.
  • Move around and stay physically active – It cannot be stressed enough that it is healthy for the body to stay active. One shouldn’t remain stagnant after a heart attack; this will cause more harm than good. Light-intensity exercises are encouraged and advised by many physicians to improve heart health.

Exercise

Exercise can significantly improve your heart health and recovery process. | Source: freepik.com

  • Lose weight – Obesity can lead to a sudden heart attack. Research has revealed that a 10% loss in weight helps decrease the risk of having another MI.
  • Attend follow-up appointments – It is imperative to attend all follow-up appointments to assess any abnormality in the heart that can be caught early before any symptoms appear.

 

Conclusion

There have been many advancements in medicine that have produced positive outcomes, especially for patients who have suffered a heart attack. The fear and anxiety that exists after a heart attack will cause some individuals to seek professional help in order to counter their fears and live a long anxiety-free life. A routine of exercise and healthy diet will increase the healing and avoid repeated episodes. However, if you experience chest pain, sudden fatigue, dizziness, or swelling in your legs at any time, make sure to visit your healthcare provider immediately. 

Doctor

Visit your doctor immediately  if you experience any recurrent heart symptoms | Source: freepik.com

 

FAQs


Can you live a long life after a heart attack?

After a first heart attack, most people go on to live a long, productive life. However, around 20 percent of patients age 45 and older will have another heart attack within five years of their first. The key factor is to stay healthy and exercise regularly.

Is the damage from a heart attack permanent?

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. “Myo” means muscle, “cardial” refers to the heart, and “infarction” means the death of tissue due to lack of blood supply.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

These can occur while you are active or at rest, and include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Tightness or pressure in your arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, weakness, or fainting
  • Pale, sweaty skin
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Swelling or pain in your legs

Can the heart muscle recover after a heart attack?

The answer is most likely yes. The heart muscle begins to heal soon after a heart attack. It usually takes about eight weeks to heal fully so that you can go about your normal routine. Scar tissue may form in the damaged area, and that scar tissue does not contract or pump as well as healthy muscle tissue.

Do heart attacks shorten your life?

Heart attack, stroke, and diabetes can shorten life by 23 years. Of course, this can vary by person based on family history, diet, activity level, lifestyle, etc.

Is heart attack curable?

Although we can’t cure heart disease, we can make it better. Most forms of heart disease are very treatable today. There is some evidence that normalizing high blood pressure and lowering cholesterol to very low levels will partially reverse plaques in the coronary arteries, potentially avoiding an inevitable heart problem.

What should you not do after a heart attack?

Your doctor will likely advise you to refrain from sex and other strenuous physical activities for at least 2 to 3 weeks after your heart attack. Also, a list of foods to avoid should be provided. Focus on healthy diet and light exercise.

What type of heart attack kills instantly?

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a sudden, unexpected death caused by a change in heart rhythm (sudden cardiac arrest). It is the largest cause of natural death in the United States, resulting in about 325,000 adult deaths each year. SCD is responsible for half of all heart disease deaths.

 


References:

  1. Anonymous. Life After a Heart Attack. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/life-after-a-heart-attack
  2. Anonymous. Heart Attack Recovery FAQs. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/life-after-a-heart-attack/heart-attack-recovery-faqs
  3. Doll, J. (2020, January 01). Quality of life after myocardial infarction: More PROgress needed. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://heart.bmj.com/content/106/1/8
  4. Staff, F. (2019, July 22). Tips for Recovering and Staying Well After a Heart Attack. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-recovering-and-staying-well/amp/
  5. Beckerman, J. (2018, September 05). What to Do After a Heart Attack: Changes to Your Lifestyle. Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/what-to-do-after-a-heart-attack

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