At the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, noted cardiologist Dr. Clyde Yancy stated that Canadians who make simple lifestyle changes can add at least a decade of healthy years to their lifespan. Here are some of most important changes you can make.
Participation in a physician prescribed cardiac rehabilitation is a key factor for improving your heart health after a heart attack. This type of program is the first step, and will help guide you through the types of activities and exercise that can get you back to your normal activity level and even beyond that to improved heart healthy abilities. Remember that physical activity needs to be part of every day. After your rehabilitation program, you may be able to participate in a variety of activities that suit your preferences such as dancing, walking, tennis, swimming, gardening, etc.
Control Your Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
- Cholesterol is usually defined by the levels of LDL (low density lipoproteins, which can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in your arteries) and the HDL (high density lipoproteins, that have more of a heart healthy function). These levels are monitored by your physician and you can improve them through diet, physical activity and possibly medications. Ask a nutritionist or dietitian for assistance in developing a heart healthy diet plan for you that include specific foods that can raise the good HDL and lower the bad LDL.
- High blood pressure can be lowered with a combination of medication, diet and/or exercise. Your health care provider can teach you how to monitor your own blood pressure.
If you have diabetes, make sure you are capable of correctly monitoring your blood sugar and taking the correct medication at the correct time. Your dietitian can develop a diet plan that will also help manage your blood sugar. Many foods in certain combinations can keep your blood sugar and insulin levels more stable.
Follow a Healthy Diet and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is one of the most important things you can do to improve your heart health. A nutritionist or dietitian can develop a healthy diet based on foods that you will enjoy and that can bring your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose within normal range.
Be Tobacco Free
Quitting smoking is a major factor for creating a heart healthy lifestyle and can be difficult. The best way is to ask for help. There are many great programs sponsored by hospitals and other great resources like the Smoker’s Helpline on the web or 877-513-5333.
Reduce Your Stress
A small amount of stress is actually good for us, as it gets us motivated to do things and learn. But too much stress over long periods of time is detrimental to our heart health. Many times you can’t control the amount of stress in your life, but you can learn to manage its effect on you. Here are some suggestions:
- Learn muscular relaxation such as stretching, yoga, or pilates.
- Provide for time in a quiet environment such as going for a walk, listening to soft soothing music, taking a warm bath, or learning to meditate.
- Practice slow, deep breathing from your belly rather than your chest, repeating a word or phrase with each inhale and exhale. For example, you can say slowly ‘Life is wonderful,’ or ‘I am relaxing,’ or ‘Ommm,’ or ‘One.’
- Skills training with a professional where you identify stressful situations in your life and practice techniques to reduce your stress response such as learning to be more easy-going and positive and to reduce your quickness to anger.
After a heart attack, don’t go it alone. Get help from health professionals, follow a heart healthy diet, reduce your stress and get active doing things you like to do! A heart healthy diet, along with exercise, can help you lose the extra weight that will make you physically feel better and be more motivated to be active. Making these lifestyle changes after a heart attack can improve your health, your life, and increase your longevity.