More than 1.2 million Americans have suffered from heart attacks, and the risk of heart disease goes up with age and with other illnesses such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. If you’re caring for a person with heart disease, it’s important to follow these guidelines:
Stick to the Medication Schedule
People often have a hard time remembering to take their medications at specific times, but heart medicine is much more efficient when taken on time. Remind the person you are caring for to take their medicine according to schedule. You can keep track of the schedule with phone alarms or by using an app.
Support Lifestyle Changes
People who have had heart attacks must change their habits. If they suffer from high blood pressure or are overweight, they will likely need to change their nutrition. It can be hard to give up the foods they have been used to eating for their entire lives and they may feel deprived of simple pleasures. Cooking delicious nutritious foods can help change their attitude. Modeling good eating habits yourself is also helpful.
Smokers who have had heart attacks will be told to kick the habit. You can support this as well by letting them know you believe they can do it and by providing alternative activities during times when the urge to smoke is strong.
Exercise is an important component in controlling heart disease, but many heart attack survivors are nervous about putting a strain on their hearts by engaging in vigorous activity. Encourage them to slowly get more active. Even a walk down the block is a step in the right direction.
Look Out for Depression
Heart attack survivors are prone to depression but are often not treated for it. Look out for the symptoms of depression such as fatigue, loss of interest in hobbies and interests, irritability, persistent pain and insomnia. If depression is suspected, a doctor’s visit is in order and possibly a prescription for anti-depressants.
Learn the Heart Attack Warning Signs
Be prepared in case of a repeat heart attack by studying up on the warning signs. These include pain through shoulders, neck and arms, pressure in the center of the chest, fainting, sweating or nausea. If you think the person is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. It’s better to err on the side of caution, so you don’t accidentally dismiss the real thing as heartburn or the flu.
Heart attacks are the most common cause of death in the US, but with proper care a person with heart disease can live a long and full life. Timely medication, proper nutrition, exercise and giving up smoking can all contribute to a healthier existence. A caregiver’s support and awareness of warning signs will also help save lives. This American Heart Month, take advantage of resources available on and offline to learn more about prevention of heart disease and caring for people who have already had a heart attack.