A heart attack can drastically alter your life. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the first thought of every person who survives a heart attack and their family is, "Can we lead a normal life after this?" The answer to this question is a resounding YES. Most patients, if not all, return to normal life in a step ladder manner if they arrive at a cardiac centre on time and are treated either with appropriate clot-dissolving medications or primary angioplasty/bypass surgery for the blocked arteries.
The last decade has seen tremendous advances in the quality of medications, stents, image-guided angioplasty techniques and surgical techniques such as minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery - all of which have resulted in a faster and more complete recovery after a heart attack. Most patients who undergo angioplasty are discharged in 48 to 72 hours and return to their normal routine in 1 to 2 weeks.
The aim of post-heart attack care is to help the patients get back to their normal routines.
Heart attack recovery: 5 tips to follow
1. Exercise as a routine after a heart attack:
Walking is the best cardiovascular exercise, and patients can begin walking as soon as one week after discharge and gradually increase their speed. Normalcy can usually be restored in less than a month. Yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques are all beneficial in the recovery process. It has been seen that a significant number of patients who were athletes, sportsmen and marathon runners have returned to their routine, but over a period of time which can vary from individual to individual.
A word of caution: Strenuous exercise should be performed only under medical supervision.
2. A balanced diet plan:
A solid diet that is both nutritious and healthy forms a cornerstone in recovery. A rich intake of fruits, vegetables and dry fruits with a marginal reduction in oil and salt is recommended. Non-vegetarians can consume more fish and lean meat while avoiding red meat for a while.
3. Regular health checks
Regular health check-ups including a lipid profile, sugar, kidney function tests, ECG, echo and TMT tests are mandatory. These help in fine-tuning the medications and identifying any issues that may arise. Also, if one experiences breathlessness, chest pain, arm pain, jaw pain or back pain after a heart attack, it is better to visit the hospital right away. These problems are usually uncommon if the appropriate treatment is administered on time.
4. Detailed counselling and support groups
At discharge, detailed counselling by the heart team including the cardiologist, cardiac surgeon, dietician, and physiotherapist, helps the patient and family gain confidence in themselves and trust in the recovery process. Additionally, patients who have had a heart attack may have difficulty accepting that, despite leading a healthy lifestyle, they had a heart attack. In such cases, self-help/support groups in which they can meet and speak with other heart attack survivors can help them overcome their anxiety issues.
5. Medications to manage risk factors
Following a heart attack, certain medications are prescribed as part of the treatment plan to reduce the risk of further complications. Depending on the damage, beta-blockers, antithrombotics (antiplatelet or anticoagulant medicines), and statins may be recommended. These medicines can significantly reduce the likelihood of another cardiac event.
In the end, regular exercise, yoga, meditation, good sleep, avoiding stress, good healthy eating and lifestyle habits, regular health checks, and family support go a long way in the recovery of heart attack patients who can go on and lead a normal and fulfilling life.
(Dr. K P Srihari Das, Senior Consultant - Interventional Cardiology, Manipal Hospital Jayanagar)
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