ZocdocAnswersWhat actions should be taken after surviving a heart attack?

Question

What actions should be taken after surviving a heart attack?

My dad had a mild heart attack and I don't want this to happen again. He doesn't have the healthiest lifestyle, but I want to help him improve. What suggestions can I make?

Answer

There are certain things that every patient who survives a heart attack should do. Probably the most important step to take is to regularly visit a cardiologist. Cardiologists specialize in caring for patients with heart disease and are experts in the various steps patients should take after having a heart attack. Patients who have had a heart attack should begin certain medications, but the specific drugs and doses should be decided by a cardiologist who is familiar with the severity of your father's heart attack, how well his heart is functioning after the heart attack, and any other medical problems he may have. Depending on how well your father's heart is functioning after the heart attack, a cardiologist may recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program of gentle exercise that will gradually strengthen your father's heart. Regardless of whether a rehabilitation program is needed, your father should engage in 30 minutes of light exercise at least 3 times per week, unless his cardiologist recommends against it. Finally, one of the most important steps to improving heart health after a heart attack is to reduce or eliminate the risk factors that led to the heart attack in the first place. Some risk factors cannot be changed, like age and male gender, but there are many risk factors that can be eliminated through lifestyle changes. If your father smokes he should stop today. If he is a diabetic, he should adhere to dietary changes and medication regimens to keep the diabetes well controlled. He should adhere to a low-calorie, low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-sodium diet, which, when paired with exercise, will lead to weight loss and improved heart health. There are two very important partners your father should have when attempting to make these lifestyle changes. The first is you. Encouragement and support from family members is one of the most critical factors that contributes to making successful lifestyle changes. The other partner is a physician. A physician, such as a cardiologist or general internist, can offer support, establish safe plans for exercise and dietary changes, make referrals to a nutritionist or physical therapist if needed, and can even prescribe medications that can assist patients with quitting smoking or losing weight. If you father is able to follow this advice and make healthy changes to his lifestyle, he will dramatically improve his heart health (an overall health as well) and will significantly decrease his chances of suffering another heart attack or developing other heart problems.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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