Preventing a second heart attack

Recovery from a heart attack takes time. First there are the physical and emotional reactions to deal with. A big part of recovery, however, is embracing lifestyle changes to keep the heart as healthy as possible and prevent a recurrence. It takes dedication to change old habits. But the effort is much less than what it takes to bounce back from another heart attack!

Your role as “partner-in-care.” You can’t force your loved one to make the necessary changes. And nagging won’t help. Instead, encourage your relative to talk about what he or she looks forward to about quitting cigarettes, for instance: better-tasting food, no more smoking outside in the cold.

Small steps. Help your relative identify which change seems the easiest to start with. Begin there and build up gradually.

To improve recovery and prevent a recurrence, support your loved one to

  • make a follow-up appointment. It’s crucial that your relative see his or her doctor soon after a heart attack. You want to confirm the medications prescribed at the hospital are the correct combination.
  • take medications as directed. Be sure you both understand the new medications given for heart care. Other drugs may be necessary to control blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.
  • adopt heart-healthy habits. The “heart-healthy ABCs” are Avoid tobacco. Become more active. Choose good nutrition.
  • engage in a cardiac rehab program. This involves medically supervised exercise. Rehab also includes learning healthy techniques to manage stress. Medicare will pay for these recovery services.
  • get support. This applies to you as the family caregiver, as well as the person you care for. Ask about local support groups or check out the online community at

It will take a while to recover. But patience, understanding, and following directions are the best way for everyone to reduce the chance of a repeat attack.