Lifestyle changes, broadly
Changes in lifestyle, such as a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking, and losing weight (among others) can help reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack. You and your loved one should talk with their cardiologist and primary health care provider about these necessary and safe lifestyle changes. Also check with your loved one's health plan, as there may be benefits available to support weight loss/management, exercise, and nutrition.
Lifestyle changes, specifically (and what you can do to help)
Eat a heart-healthy diet
Lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-sodium
Help your loved one make a grocery list
Assist with grocery shopping and healthy food choices
Teach your loved one how to read food labels
Learn more about quick and easy food choices
Increase physical activity
40 minutes of light or 20 minutes of moderate activity
Take long walks together
Encourage outings that involve walking, biking, swimming, hiking, or dancing
Explore yoga and tai chi
Look into senior programs like SilverSteps
Quit smoking, and all other tobacco products
Talk with a health care provider for assistance with smoking cessation, and check with your loved one's health plan for a smoking cessation benefit
Do not buy them tobacco products, look for nicotine replacement products instead
See content on Tips to Stop Smoking.
Manage stress, decompress
Encourage your loved one to share their feelings, candidly
When they're talking, stop and give them your undivided attention, listening to their concerns
Explore yoga, tai chi, aromatherapy, and meditation
Explore art and music therapy
Encourage hobbies, especially the development of new ones
Seek ways to make their daily activities safer and more efficient with home modifications, medication management methods, and more
Take medications as prescribed
All of them, every day, on time
Ensure that they receive refills and are stocked
Manage medication administration with a daily or weekly pill planner
Set alarms throughout the day to remind them when it's time to take their medications
Observe and monitor for any missed dosages and discuss them
Likely, your loved one will already be referred to cardiac rehab following their hospitalization for a heart attack, but if they are not, be sure to ask their cardiologist or primary care provider about it. Cardiac rehab is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problem that requires surgery or medical care that includes exercise, education, and counseling.
Depression (and anxiety)
25% of people (1 in 4) who have had heart attacks experience depression. About the same number experience anxiety, which may contribute to the development of depression. Encourage your loved one to...
Share their feelings with you, inviting them to be honest and candid, and don't judge them for what they may say.
Speak with other heart attack survivors, whether that's in an organized support group or just others you or they may know.
Speak to a counselor about how they're coping with this life change and everything associated with it.
Have their primary care provider or cardiologist periodically conduct a depression screening.