Facing a heart disease diagnosis can be intimidating. And it is true that heart disease requires lifelong management. But it doesn’t have to be scary. A few simple lifestyle changes can set you up for success.

Managing heart disease

Eat a heart-healthy diet. A low-fat diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, fiber, lean poultry and meat, and moderate salt intake can help you manage heart disease.

Step it up. Regular physical activity can do wonders for improving heart function, controlling your weight, and lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also prevent depression and minimize stress.

Before you get moving, talk with your doctor about what types and duration of exercise are best for you.

Watch your weight. Losing weight may reduce cardiovascular risk by controlling high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and diabetes.

Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. Smoking can damage your heart and blood vessels. People who smoke also tend to develop blood clots and high blood pressure. Quitting smoking dramatically cuts the risk to your heart, even within the first year.

Reduce stress. Studies show that long-term stress can lead to issues like high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and increase the risk of heart disease. Learn to recognize signs of stress in your life and practice lowering stress levels with meditation, yoga, or rhythmic breathing. Regular exercise is a great stress buster, too.


Managing Prescription Medication

Keeping up with your prescription medicines can be a challenge. Follow these tips to make sure you stay on top of your prescription medicine regimen:

  • Keep a list of all your prescription medicines and their daily dosage.
  • Give a copy of the list to each doctor you visit.
  • Distribute the list among your family members.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Keep taking your medicine as prescribed, even if you begin to feel better.
  • Take all your prescription medicines in daylight if possible to avoid mix-ups.
  • Store your medications in a temperature-controlled environment with low humidity; ask your pharmacist if any of your prescriptions can or should be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Wear your reading glasses when reading a prescription medicine container label. Also, ask the pharmacist for a large-type prescription medicine information sheet when filling your prescription.
  • Store your prescription medicines in a safe place when the grandchildren come to visit or when any strangers will be in your home — to perform repairs or for a social event.
  • Schedule a yearly comprehensive medicine check-up with your doctor or healthcare professional to discuss: whether to continue each over-the-counter medicine, vitamin, herbal remedy, and prescription medicine; possible duplicate medicines; potential harmful interactions; and any changes in dosages.


Recovering from a Heart Attack

“You’ve had a heart attack.”

These five words will change your life. However, you can live a healthy, happy life post-diagnosis.

Women heart attack survivors founded WomenHeart, and we know exactly how you feel. Our goal is to help you help yourself. The more knowledge and insight we share with each other, the more we will all lead healthier and productive lives. The one thing we know firsthand is that you can recover and live a healthy life.


Factors impacting your recovery:

  • The quality of healthcare you received
  • How quickly you received medical care
  • Your age
  • Whether you have a medical condition other than heart disease
  • Whether you can afford health insurance and prescription medication.

That said, your chances of recovery improve dramatically if you follow your healthcare providers’ treatment instructions AND take responsibility for your own health and recovery by:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Stopping smoking
  • Controlling diabetes, depression, or obesity
  • Taking medicines as prescribed
  • Keeping all healthcare appointments
  • Reducing your anger and stress

Put yourself, your health, and your heart’s recovery first above all else, even if it is difficult.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, confused, and defeated even before you begin. Many women report that it takes several years to recover fully from a heart attack — physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Go slowly – making small changes in your diet and exercise over two or three months is a good way to feel in control and stay positive.

Eventually, with your efforts and good medical care, you will re-gain your self-confidence and live life to the fullest. Remember, you are not your disease – you are a woman living with heart disease who also has a life to lead.

    Cardiac Rehabilitation

    Your doctor may recommend that you attend a cardiac rehabilitation program during which healthcare professionals and physical therapists will work with you to develop healthy eating habits and start you on a graduated program of exercise. These programs also offer guidance about reducing your risk for another heart attack, such as smoking cessation, and lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

    If your doctor does not recommend cardiac rehab, find out why and discuss whether this might be a good thing for you.

    Sometimes cardiac rehab programs are geared for older men, so ask if any provisions are made for women your age. If you are working, scheduling may be a problem since many rehab programs are held during the morning. Also, check if your health insurance company will pay for cardiac rehab.