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Rebounding from heart disease

If you’re a heart attack survivor, the odds are already in your favor. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to your heart health. During the first five years after a heart attack, the chance of a woman having a second heart attack is almost 35 percent. If anything positive can be said about having a heart attack, it’s that it provides an incentive to take some protective steps. Here’s an action plan for any woman who has had a heart attack.

  • Stub out smoking. Continuing to smoke more than doubles your risk of a second heart attack or heart-related death. If you haven’t quit already, there’s no better time to do it than right now.
  • Find out if you should take a daily dose. According to a study of Medicare recipients, more than 3,000 lives could be saved annually if Medicare recipients alone were given aspirin after a heart attack. Yet research shows many female heart attack survivors are in the dark about aspirin’s benefits. Before you start taking aspirin, talk to your doctor. Not everyone can take it safely. Depending on your specific health profile, your doctor will determine if aspirin’s benefits would outweigh its risks.
  • Control cholesterol. Before your next visit, tell your doctor you would like an evaluation of your fasting lipid profile, a measurement of the cholesterol and fat levels in your blood. You’ll receive simple instructions before the test. Undesirable levels should be treated aggressively if you have had a heart attack.
  • Monitor weight. Strive to reach a healthy weight. If you are overweight, your doctor can prescribe an appropriate nutrition and fitness plan for you to follow.
  • Pursue a program. Random trials consistently show a survival benefit for those enrolled in a rehabilitation program. Ask your doctor to prescribe and monitor a cardiac rehabilitation exercise program that’s tailored to your condition.
  • Watch the pressure. Have your blood pressure monitored regularly. After menopause, more women than men have high blood pressure. If you have hypertension, take any prescribed medication faithfully and follow your doctor’s other lifestyle recommendations.
  • Eat healthfully. In addition to choosing heart-healthy foods, it’s important to limit saturated and trans fat and cholesterol. Remember to have your physician assess and monitor your personal eating plan.
  • Get a handle on stress. Adopting stress-management techniques, such as meditation, yoga or tai chi, can help lower blood pressure and promote well-being.