Having a heart attack is a daunting experience, which can take a while to come to terms with.
We’ve put together some steps for you to follow to fast-track your recovery, and help you on your way to feeling “normal” again.
Seven steps women can take to recover from a heart attack:
#1 Give yourself time
As women, we tend to rush around after everyone else, making sure they are okay. But, it’s time to allow others to look after you for a change. Talk to your health care team if you’re not sure when you can return to normal activities such as gardening, hoursework or lifting, etc.
In the meantime, take rests when you need to, allow yourself to recuperate emotionally and psychologically, and ask for others to help when you need it.
#2 Allow for emotional healing
Your moods may be a bit up and down in the first few weeks and months. You may even find yourself bursting into tears, or being more irritable than usual. But, don’t worry, this is all part of the healing process. Rest assured you can and will work through it at your own pace.
Depression is quite common among women with heart disease, and it’s particularly common among women who have already experienced a heart attack. Please take a look at my recent articles on depression: "Depression and Heart Disease: Four Small Steps to Recovery," and “25 Small Life Changes to Help You Overcome Depression,” for more tips and advice.
#3 Reconnect with loved ones
You may not feel much like socialising at first, but staying connected with family and friends throughout your recovery is really important. In fact, research has shown that women with close family relationships and friendships make a better recovery from heart events.
It’s a good idea to keep visitors to a minimum initially, though, but don’t be afraid to ask them to help out with something, or have them come over and cook or clean for you "” they’ll be more than happy to help.
You may also find WomenHeart a helpful resource. They offer a free online community, where you can register and become a member. This is a great resource, being specifically for women with heart disease.
#4 Get involved with cardiac rehab
Cardiac rehab sessions are very important, because they give you the opportunity to discuss any health concerns. Classes are usually run as group sessions, which is also great, as it gives you a chance to talk to others who’ve been through something similar.
Sometimes cardiac rehab programs are geared towards older men, so ask if any provisions are made for women in your age group.
#5 Be vigilant
It’s important not to get too wound up with watching numbers, but it’s good to keep a bit of an eye on things like blood pressure, weight, and your alcohol intake. Your doctor will also be keeping a close eye on these things too, which is good to know.
#6 Eat a healthy diet
Another way to fast-track your recovery from a heart attack is to focus on eating a healthy diet. Try to get some heart-healthy oily fish into your diet, such as herring, mackerel, salmon or sardines. The Mediterranean-style diet is a very good choice, because it focuses on healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and wholegrains, without being too restrictive, or regimental.
If you’re a bit stuck for ideas, start reading cookbooks, magazines and searching for recipes online. Check out these Go Red for Women Heart-Healthy Recipes.
#7 Enjoy being outside
It’s important to get your heart back into shape following a heart attack. Taking some physical activity can help with that, as it encourages blood and oxygen to move through the body. Exercise helps to strengthen your heart muscle, which is exactly what you need, as you work towards making a full recovery.
Ask your health care provider when you can begin exercising again, and how much they would suggest. Walking is normally the best place to begin, and getting out into the fresh air and sunshine does wonders to boost low mood.
Your ultimate goal should be to get 30 minutes of physical activity, or more, most days of the week. If exercise is new to you, start small and build upon it.
Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian and author of Dietriffic.com. Get her latest free report by visiting her website.