TROY — A heart attack can suddenly bring a lot of things into focus — such as the type of lifestyle a person has led or a clearer picture of their mortality.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women; however, each year tens of thousands of Americans survive this often frightening and confusing event, the American Heart Association said. Thankfully, most of those who survive will be able to return to normal life and enjoy many more productive years.
“A heart attack is a life-altering event that causes a light to go on for a lot of people and they start making drastic changes in their life,” said Thomas Kupper, MD, a cardiologist with Upper Valley Cardiology. “They stop smoking. They try to eat healthy. They try to become more physically active. Ultimately, they lead a much healthier life than they had up to that point.”
Surviving a heart attack can lead to positive changes in a person’s life, but it may also open up burdens a person has never had to consider. Heart attack survivors are prone to depression as they grapple with a new diagnosis and worry about issues such as time off of work. They may also experience a new anxiety over discomfort in their chest that may have nothing to do with their heart, Dr. Kupper said.
“Often, after an event like a heart attack there is a period of recovery, not only physically, but mentally,” he said. “After a heart attack, people tend to have a heightened sense of any feeling below their chin and above their waist. Some may develop a lot of anxiety over discomfort in their chest, which may be caused by something other than their heart such as their stomach or esophagus.”
Dr. Kupper says the following steps can help a person transition back into a normal life after a heart attack while helping to reduce their risk of going through the experience again.
• Be compliant — Most likely your cardiologist has ordered medication to help address the issues that may have increased your risk for a heart attack or to aid the effectiveness of a procedure that was done at the time of the attack. These medications can be a lifeline to ensure future health. Take them as directed and for as long as they are prescribed. If affordability is an obstacle, talk to your doctor who may be able to direct you to patient assistance programs.
• See your doctor — It is crucial that you should be monitored for the rest of your life. How frequent your physician will want to see you may vary on your progress, but keeping those appointments is critical. The regular monitoring – which can vary from once to twice a year with a cardiologist – not only helps with the adjustment to medications and evaluate their effectiveness, but can also foster a sense of peace in patients who still experience anxiety.
• Go to rehab — Don’t look at cardiac rehabilitation as a chore to check off a list, but an effective tool to strengthen your heart in a safe environment. Rehab is not only good for physical health, but also mental. You’ll likely be surrounded by individuals who share your story and understand your struggles.
• Modify your life — Discuss with your doctor what can be modified in your life to reduce your risk for another heart attack. Stop smoking, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and get moving. You can’t change the fact that heart disease runs in your family, but you can play a role in how it will affect your own life.
“I want to encourage people that even if they haven’t led a healthy life up to this point, it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world,” Dr. Kupper said. “For some people, honestly, it’s a new beginning.”
For more information on heart attacks or to find a Premier Health Specialists healthcare provider near you, visit www.premierhealthspecialists.com/heart.
Premier Health Specialists is one of the largest groups of specialty care practices in Southwest Ohio. More than 150 physicians serve patients in a variety of specialties such as bariatrics, breast care, burn and wound, cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, cardiovascular-thoracic surgery, gastroenterology, general surgery, gynecologic oncology, hand and reconstructive surgery, infectious diseases, maternal-fetal medicine, neurosciences, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic surgery, orthopedic spine surgery, ophthalmology, palliative care, physiatry, plastic surgery, podiatry, psychology, pulmonology, sports medicine and urology. Premier Health Specialists is part of Premier Health, which includes Miami Valley Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital Dayton, Atrium Medical Center and Upper Valley Medical Center. For more information, visit http://www.premierhealthspecialists.org.