Preventing a Second Heart Attack
Preventing a Second Heart Attack
Most Americans survive a first heart attack, but are at increased risk for another one. By taking action you can significantly reduce your chance for a second heart attack.
These factors increase your risk for another heart attack, according to experts:
What you should do
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following actions to reduce your risk for a second heart attack:
Quit smoking. You can cut
your risk for another heart attack in half by not smoking. Talk with your
healthcare provider about a smoking cessation program, nicotine replacement
products, or medicines to help you quit. This is the biggest preventable risk
factor for heart disease.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. By
cutting back on saturated fat and trans fat, you can lower your LDL ("bad")
cholesterol and triglyceride levels. LDL is one of the primary substances that
causes heart attacks. Manufacturers are reducing or eliminating trans fats from
their products. You can stay away from most trans fatty acids by eating less
margarine and fewer cookies, crackers, fries, doughnuts, and other snack foods
that contain partially hydrogenated oils. It's important to do this even when you
Control your cholesterol.
Besides eating a heart-healthy diet, such as the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop
Hypertension) diet, you can help keep your cholesterol under control by exercising
regularly. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe a cholesterol-lowering
medicine such as a statin. It's important to take this medicine as prescribed.
Your provider may prescribe other medicines such as ezetimibe or PCSK9 inhibitors
if you are at a higher risk and your cholesterol has been hard to control. Talk
with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
Exercise regularly. Exercise
is important because it strengthens your heart muscle. It also boosts your energy
level and helps with weight management, cholesterol, and blood pressure. The AHA
recommends a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of walking or other moderately vigorous
exercise at least 3 to 5 times each week. If you've had a heart attack, you must
get your healthcare provider's OK before starting an exercise program. If you have
any of these symptoms during exercise, call your healthcare provider
Shortness of breath
that lasts for more than 10 minutes
Chest pain or pain in
your arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
Pale or splotchy
Very fast heartbeat or
Nausea and vomiting
Weakness, swelling, or
pain in your legs
Stay at a healthy weight.
Being overweight greatly increases your risk for a second heart attack. If you
need to lose weight, ask your healthcare provider for help. Your BMI (body mass
index) should be between 18.5 and 24.9. This is the healthiest range.
Control high blood pressure.
Follow your healthcare provider's suggestions.
Assess your mental health.
Depression, stress, anxiety, and anger can damage your heart and overall
health. Talk with your healthcare provider about seeing a therapist if you need
help with your emotions.
Take your medicines as
directed. Your heart, cholesterol, and blood pressure medicines are an
important part of your heart health. If you have any questions about them, talk
with your healthcare provider or your pharmacist.
Control blood sugars. You are
at higher risk for a second heart attack if you have diabetes or are developing a
resistance to insulin and have high blood sugar levels. Lowering blood sugars can
decrease the inflammation and damage to the coronary arteries. It can prevent
scarring or narrowing of these blood vessels.
Limit alcohol and illegal
drugs. Alcohol and illegal drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can raise
blood pressure and stress on the heart. Alcohol can also raise blood sugar and
triglyceride levels. Ask your provider for help in limiting your alcohol or quitting
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Mandy Snyder APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham
Date Last Reviewed:
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