Heart Attacks: After Care

What happened to my heart when I had a heart attack?
Part of your heart, which is a muscular pump, had its blood supply reduced or cut off, so depriving it of oxygen. This caused part of your heart muscle to be damaged, leaving scar tissue. The scar tissue no longer contracts or contributes to the pumping action.

What do I need to do now to recover as fully as possible?
Rest is advisable immediately after a heart attack to promote healing.
Decide any lifestyle changes in consultation with family and professionals.
These are likely to centre on the following areas:

* Physical activity: after advice from hospital staff and your GP, seek to increase the amount of physical activity that you do, e.g. walking, swimming, cycling and dancing.

* Sex – in deciding when to return to sexual activity, be guided by your response to the increase in physical activity, as well as your level of desire.

* Driving: there are guidelines available from the DVLA. See details below.

* Diet and nutrition. Increase the amount of fruit, vegetables, brown rice, pasta and wholemeal bread that you eat. Increase the amount of chicken and fish that you eat. Check for the levels of salt, sugar and fat in purchased foods. Keep a check on your weight.

* If you smoke, give it up!

* If you drink in excess of the recommended guidelines, reduce the amount you drink.

* Emotional support. Talk to family members and friends about the experience of the attack and subsequent feelings. Find out about a local support group.

* Relaxation. Learn to develop periods of calm in your day between physical and mental activity. Find out about local meditation classes, receive massage or other form of complementary treatment from a suitably qualified practitioner.

* Medication: aspirin, lipid lowering drugs, Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors are some of the forms of medication to promote your care after a heart attack. Seek advice from hospital staff or your GP.

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