After a Heart Attack: Managing Your Recovery
MEDICAL ANIMATION TRANSCRIPT: This video will help you understand a heart attack and how to manage it. Please watch the entire video to learn how to manage your recovery. If you have been hospitalized with a heart attack, it's important to recover properly when you return home. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, or MI, occurs when blood flow to an area of your heart is greatly reduced. When the blood supply is not able to keep up with the demand, the heart muscle cells don't get enough blood to stay alive. The result is death of heart muscle cells in the affected area of the heart. The goals after a heart attack are to keep your heart healthy and avoid another heart attack. Recovery takes time, and the amount is different for each patient. It depends upon how much of your heart muscle is damaged and your individual rate of recovery. You may also have had a procedure. This may also affect your recovery time. You could lower your risk of having another heart attack by taking these steps. Follow your doctor's instructions. Make some lifestyle changes. And know when to seek medical attention. Following the instructions of your doctor and health care team is very important to your recovery. This includes taking your medications exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Don't stop taking your medications or skip doses. Take note of any side effects and tell your doctor. Don't take any over-the-counter medication or supplement without first consulting your doctor. Tell your doctor about any other prescriptions you're taking. Some medications can prevent your heart medicine from working. It's important that your recovery is monitored. Keep all of your follow up appointments. Have exams done as directed by your doctor. For example, if your doctor has told you to check your blood pressure regularly, do as directed. Lowering your risk of another heart attack usually requires some lifestyle changes. Limit your salt and sodium intake by doing the following. Don't add salts when you cook or to food at the table. Avoid processed and fast foods. Compare food labels and choose the items that are lower in salt and sodium. Eat a heart-healthy diet, including low fat, low cholesterol, and high fiber foods. A heart-healthy diet helps you maintain or achieve a good blood pressure and weight. It also helps prevent other conditions that may further stress your heart. Limit your alcohol intake. Ask your doctor if it's safe to include any alcohol in your diet. Maintain a healthy weight. Don't smoke-- avoid all tobacco products and secondhand smoke. Nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure. At the same time, it decreases the amount of oxygen rich blood delivered to your body's tissues. Allow yourself time to heal by taking it easy for the first four weeks. Getting a good night's sleep. Resting in the afternoon. Avoiding heavy lifting, and gradually increasing your physical activity. Ask your doctor when you can resume driving, sexual activity, and return to work. Four weeks after your heart attack, you will begin cardiac rehab, which includes a closely monitored exercise regimen. After completing the cardiac rehab program, continue with regular exercise through daily activities, such as light yard and house work. Other good exercise options, with your doctor's approval, are walking, swimming, and bicycling. As you exercise, keep these precautions in mind. Rest as needed. Stop if you feel chest pain or have shortness of breath. And don't exercise when temperatures are very hot or very cold. Stress can affect your blood pressure and your ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Identifying the causes of your stress and learning to eliminate or manage them can help with your recovery. You may feel depressed. Discuss these feelings with your doctor. He or she can prescribe medicine, counseling, or a support group to help you adjust. It is important to stay aware of changes in your symptoms and know when to get help. If your hospital stay included a procedure with an incision, check the site each day for any signs of infection. Call your doctor if you develop a fever, or redness, heat pain, tenderness, pus, or bleeding at the incision site. Be mindful of any symptoms of chest pain, pressure, tightness, heaviness, ache, or any other kind of unusual sensation in your chest as any of these could mean you have a blockage in the blood vessels of the heart. Symptoms related to blockage in the blood vessels of the heart are called angina, and could be any one of these symptoms. Angina symptoms may also be felt in your arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, or back. Call your doctor if you think you're experiencing angina. Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Angina the doesn't go away with medication as prescribed by your doctor. Shortness of breath. Cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, or lightheadedness.