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8 Mistakes Heart Patients Make

If you've already had a heart attack, you're at increased risk for another. But with a few smart moves you can reduce that risk. Many heart patients have mistaken ideas about what's good for them.

Mistake 1: Thinking all heart attacks are the same

Your uncle had a heart attack even after a lifetime of eating low-fat foods and jogging every day. So you may think changing your own lifestyle is not worth the trouble. Or your friend the construction worker may have given up his job after a heart attack. So you assume you'll need to give up your job, too. Don't count on it. Work with your healthcare provider to learn what's best for you. Everyone has different genetics and different risks unique to their own lifestyle. It's important to work with your healthcare provider, friends, and family to understand and develop a plan that is right for you. Sticking to your plan is the best way to prevent a heart attack or other heart problem.

Mistake 2: Not adopting a healthier lifestyle

Learning to eat better may seem like the challenge of a lifetime. Or you may need to give up cigarettes or other tobacco products. Or make time for regular exercise. But these are some of the best things you can do for a happier, healthier future.

Here are important steps that can help you prevent a second heart attack:

  • Quit smoking. Don't use other tobacco products. These include chewing tobacco or electronic cigarettes.

  • Exercise regularly. Ask your healthcare provider what kinds of exercise to do and how often to exercise.

  • Eat a healthy diet low in fat and calories.

  • Control your weight.

  • Manage your blood pressure.

  • Manage your stress.

  • Control your cholesterol levels.

  • Control diabetes or any other blood sugar problems.

  • Visit your healthcare provider regularly to make sure you are on track.

  • Take action to reduce the stress in your life where you can.

Mistake 3: Staying stuck in grief or depression

You may have lost your healthy self-image. Or the ability to do important things in your life. Any major life change will bring feelings of loss. You may need to grieve.

You and your family may need to work through a variety of emotions after your heart attack. Keep in mind that doing so leads to a positive, constructive future. It also helps you stick to a healthy lifestyle.

Seek help from a mental health provider if you are overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety, grief, or depression. Many support groups may help you work through your emotions. And knowing you are not alone can be comforting. Attending a support group may also help you cope with grief or depression.

Mistake 4: Giving up on heart medicines

Don't stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider. Work with your provider to find out what your choices are and what these medicines can do for you. Talk about the risks and benefits of the medicines. Ask for help in choosing the ones that:

  • Work the best for you

  • Have the fewest side effects

  • Are affordable

  • You'll be comfortable taking

  • Fit with your daily schedule

  • Will have the fewest interactions with other medicines you may take

Mistake 5: Tiptoeing around your family

Think about it: You'll be helping everyone if you quit smoking and everyone else in the family quits as a result. Don't be afraid to make a big deal about your attempts at a healthy lifestyle. Ask your loved ones to give you as much support as possible. Sometimes leading by example is a good way to create a new lifestyle for yourself and your family.

Mistake 6: Staking your life on yesterday's truths

In many cases, the treatments healthcare providers relied on just a few years ago already are considered outdated. There have been dramatic changes in medicines and procedures. Stay up-to-date with regular visits to your healthcare team. 

Mistake 7: Shunning exercise

Maybe you're worried it will overstress your heart. But regular exercise actually may be one of the best things you can do for your heart. It's important for someone who's already had a heart attack to exercise correctly under the advice of a healthcare team. Get an exercise prescription designed just for you. This will be based on your physical condition and your needs and interests. Exercise can help you control risks related to weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. One excellent way to get started is to take part in a cardiac rehab program.

Mistake 8: Not "bothering" your healthcare provider with questions

Your healthcare provider is your greatest ally. Your provider wants to partner in your care. Don't hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns.

Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Tennille Dozier RN BSN RDMS
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2023
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