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Heart Attack: How to Prevent Another One

Topic Overview

After you've had a heart attack, you may be worried that you could have another one. That's easy to understand. But the good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your risk of having another heart attack. Taking medicine, doing cardiac rehabilitation, and making healthy lifestyle changes can help.

Take your medicines

You'll take medicines to help prevent another heart attack. Be sure to take your medicines exactly as prescribed. And don't stop taking them unless your doctor tells you to. If you stop taking your medicines, you can increase your risk of having another heart attack.

Some of the medicines your doctor may prescribe include:

  • Aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines to prevent blood clots.
  • Statins to lower high cholesterol.
  • Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors to lower blood pressure and reduce the workload on your heart.

Manage other health problems

You can help lower your chance of having another heart attack by managing other health problems that you might have. Health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, can increase your risk of a heart attack.

If you have any of these health problems, you can manage them by making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating better, and being active. If lifestyle changes don't help enough, you also may need to take medicines to manage these conditions.

Take part in a cardiac rehabilitation program

Taking part in a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program can help lower your risk of having another heart attack. A cardiac rehab program is designed for you and supervised by doctors and other specialists.

This type of program helps you recover from a heart attack. It also helps you take steps to prevent another one. In the program, a team of health professionals provides education and support to help you build new, healthy habits.

In cardiac rehab, you'll learn how to manage your heart disease and any other health problems that you might have, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression. You'll also learn how to exercise safely, eat a heart-healthy diet, and quit smoking if you smoke. You'll work with your team to decide what lifestyle choices are best for you.

If your doctor hasn't already suggested it, ask him or her if cardiac rehab is right for you.

Make healthy lifestyle changes

Healthy lifestyle changes can help lower your risk of having another heart attack. And they may help you feel better and live longer. Here are some things you can do:

  • Quit smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke. Quitting smoking can quickly reduce the risk of another heart attack. Medicines and counseling can help you quit for good.
  • Be active. Get at least 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week. Walking is a great way to get exercise. Your doctor can suggest a safe level of exercise for you.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Choose foods low in cholesterol, saturated and trans fats, and salt. Healthy choices include fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure, heart problems, and diabetes. These conditions make a heart attack more likely.

It's also important to:

  • Get a flu vaccine every year.
  • Ask for help if you think you are depressed.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Smith SC, et al. (2011). AHA/ACCF secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update: A guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation. Circulation, 124(22): 2458–2473. Also available online: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/124/22/2458.full.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Last Revised February 13, 2013

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