Heart attack

Preventing another heart attack

People can do a lot to reduce their chances of having another heart attack. As well as taking the medicines their doctor has prescribed and the treatments they have had in hospital, making some lifestyle changes can help the heart to recover and can improve future health.

Stopping smoking, eating well and exercising regularly will help the heart to recover. Reducing stress and making time for relaxation will also help.

How much the people we interviewed changed their habits depended on their previous lifestyle. Some made small changes, others changed more. One man said that plenty of activities combined with rest, diet and exercise helped to keep him fit and healthy.

Many people who had been smokers were surprised at how easy they had found it to quit. A few men did not stop smoking until after their second heart attack.

Some people said they had changed their diet to keep their cholesterol level low. They ate less saturated fat, ate more fruit and vegetables and no longer drank coffee. One younger man found his new diet strange at first, but his taste soon changed and he enjoyed new recipes.

Some tried to lose weight by exercising more. A few reduced their alcohol intake.

Others took more exercise. Some people had got involved in fund raising events, such as fun runs and walks, which they had never done before.

Some tried to reduce the amount of stress in their life or made time for relaxation in their daily routines. Combining daily exercise with relaxation was considered important in preventing another heart attack (see 'Complementary therapies and approaches after a heart attack').

Many said they felt fitter and healthier than before their heart attack.

Most people said they had found it easier to change their lifestyle when their partner or the whole family was involved. One young mum made her family take more exercise and eat better since her heart attack.

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Another man mentioned that it was hard to reduce his intake of saturated fat when his wife's diet had not changed. One woman said she found it difficult to exercise as much as she wanted to because she did not feel confident about doing it on her own.

Support from their partner, family or friends when making lifestyle changes was very important. One single man said that the cardiac rehabilitation nurses encouraged him and helped him to make changes.

Last reviewed June 2017.

Last updated September 2010.

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