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Heart & Lung Care Newsletter Thursday, July 24, 2014

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Pinnacle Health

Heart & Lung Care Newsletter Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Mistakes Heart Patients Make

If you've already been through one heart attack, you're at increased risk for another, but with a few smart moves you can reduce that risk.

"The way you respond to a heart attack can make a profound difference in what happens to you in the future," says Lawrence W. Gimple, M.D., a cardiologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Unfortunately, many heart patients have mistaken ideas about what's good for them. Dr. Gimple explains the following are some common errors of judgment.

Mistake 1: Thinking all heart attacks are the same.

If your Aunt Mary had a heart attack even after a lifetime of eating low-fat foods and jogging every day, 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 desk job, too. Don't count on it. Work with your doctor to learn what's best for you personally.

"What's true for one person is not true for another," says Dr. Gimple. "People have different health risks that aren't apparent on the outside."

Mistake 2: Not adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Learning to eat better may seem like the challenge of a lifetime--not to mention giving up cigarettes or making time for regular exercise. Yet, these are some of the best things you can do for a happier, healthier future.

"A heart attack can change people's lives for the better when it inspires them to make healthy improvements," says Dr. Gimple. "Ask your health care provider for support in tackling one or two lifestyle changes at a time."

Important steps that can help you prevent a second heart attack include:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly, according to your health care provider's advice.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and calories.
  • Control your weight.
  • Manage your blood pressure.
  • Control your cholesterol levels.
  • Control diabetes or any other blood sugar abnormalities.
Mistake 3: Staying stuck in grief or depression.

"A heart attack can be a life-altering event, not only for the patient, but for the spouse, children, friends and coworkers," explains Dr. Gimple.

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 and require a grieving process, with the normal stages of denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

You and your family may need to work through each of those steps. Keep in mind that doing so leads to a positive, constructive future.

If you feel stuck in one of these stages, don't hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.

Mistake 4: Giving up on heart medications.

Don't stop taking your medications without talking to your health care provider. Work with your provider to determine what your choices are and what these medications can do for you in terms of risk versus benefit. 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
Mistake 5: Tiptoeing around your family.

Think about it: If you quit smoking and everyone else in the family quits as a result, you'll be helping everyone. 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.

"Heart disease runs in families as do unhealthy habits, like poor eating, lack of exercise and smoking," notes Dr. Gimple. "Everyone can use a good role model."


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