A-Z

Heart attack

Messages to others about heart attacks

We asked the people we interviewed what advice they would give to others who have had a heart attack. Here is what they said'

  • It's not as bad as you first think. You can recover and you can have a good life after a heart attack
 

It's not always as bad as you think.

It's not always as bad as you think.

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 49
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Most people can do a heck of a lot more after a heart attack than they think they can. We've got people who come to the class who really have had very bad heart attacks and what they can achieve is quite amazing and they surprise themselves. They surprised me at first. I'm getting less so now because with the number of different people we've got, I can say, well you're not as bad as you think and get them to believe that, and that's important.

Having a heart attack can bring on all sorts of mental pictures and worries and because it's the heart, it does strike right in to the middle of people's consciousness and I think it's important to get them to realise that it's not always as bad as they think. There is a way out.

 

You can recover and you can have a good life after a heart attack.

You can recover and you can have a good life after a heart attack.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 56
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
You can recover, you can get better and it isn't the sort of death sentence it once was maybe years ago when perhaps, with the onset of medical science and development and all the rest of it, if people had heart attacks twenty, thirty, forty years ago they were advised to go to bed and they basically died through inactivity in bed. 

Now you know exercise, monitored exercise, diet and things like that gives you a real chance and I would just say for what it's worth to anyone, don't be too negative and don't be too despondent, you can get over it and with the right will, you will get over it. 

  • You can do a lot to help yourself recover 
  • Go to cardiac rehabilitation classes. It will help you to feel confident about what you can and cannot do.
  • There may be limitations to what you can do but you can still have a good life
 

You may not be able to do some of the things you did before but life can still be good.

You may not be able to do some of the things you did before but life can still be good.

Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 47
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
It seems as if having a heart attack is not confined to older people. It happens to younger and younger people. I know people in their thirties who are having heart attacks now. It's a bit worrying but it does happen and I think they're the ones we've got to get through to that you can do something. 

You can do anything. You'll learn your limitations and there are limitations, there are things you don't want to be doing. You don't want to be playing Rugby or anything like that, you know those sort of physical games, you don't want to do that but you can do badminton, you can do tennis, run, you can cycle, swim. 

Yeah, you can live a life and you can do your work. You don't want to be lifting massive weights all the time but you can do a job of work and you can do a very good job of work and there's no reason why you shouldn't. Just because you've had a heart attack, doesn't mean you've got to give in.

 

There may be limitations but you can find a way round them to have a good life.

Text only
Read below

There may be limitations but you can find a way round them to have a good life.

Age at interview: 62
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 59
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Well I think the all of us can fall of different diseases. Some have colds, some have heart attacks, some have the strokes, so it is just the draw of the luck. All of us will be depressed after being ill, all of us will you know can be affected to different degrees whether its financial, social, professional implications, which can be caused by the disease itself. 

But I think there is always ways of going round and you know getting back and ways that is, like the support group advice. Things which you can even change your career and look in to other things which you can do and enjoy.

And I think the, the problem is that if one keeps closing himself in a close circuit and thinking, “all that's happened to me, I can't go back to work, I can't do this, I can't do that. That's when the people get down and, and they let themselves down.  

But if you can break the circle and come out of it and just think about something you really want to do but you haven't got the time or the, the facilities to do it then this might be the time you should think about it and do it.  

 

Be positive during your recovery.

Be positive during your recovery.

Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 66
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Well I think that as I pointed out, I always had a positive attitude towards getting better and I do feel that people should try to recognise that a heart attack is quite a serious ailment. That people can get over it and one of the main things is to try to have the positive attitude of doing what they've always done, albeit at possibly a slower pace, but try to do something but not to sit back and say, 'I've had a heart attack. I can't do this, I can't do that.' 

As I pointed out at the beginning that was never my attitude and I think that there are people that possibly find they are more disabled that I was and may find they have to work harder at recovery than possibly I had to do. And I would say to their carer's to give them support, because that was what was the mainstay of me recovering was the support that I was given. 

 

Involve your partner and family in your recovery.

Involve your partner and family in your recovery.

Age at interview: 58
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 57
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And throughout all this, and it's such a corny comment but it's so important that your family are there with you. In the sense, not with the counselling or the Reiki, but are there with you and understanding, helping and at times displaying quite tough love, you know. 'No, you're not going to wallow in self-pity, like. 

You're going to get up, get off your backside, we'll go for a walk, or we'll do this' which doesn't sound like enormous things but they are at times and yes, that's really important. And like the woman that did my Reiki, met both of us as a couple and explained and answered my wife's questions as well as mine, and I think it's the family that has to be treated, not just the individual. 

If the patient has got children, siblings, partner, it's important that the collective group is treated. Not by forcing information down their throats but if they want to ask something, then making time for them to give them the answer as well, because it's equally important they understand what's happened to this loved one.

 

Keep your cholesterol level low and exercise as much as you can.

Keep your cholesterol level low and exercise as much as you can.

Age at interview: 69
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 67
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Even if you have not had heart problems can you please exercise because one of the things, there's two major factors I'm told, increase the risk of heart problems. One is your cholesterol level, as I say get it below 5 if you can, next time it'll be below four and then below three. 

But get your cholesterol level down and do take part in activity. Do take exercise. I mean, soon after I had my bypass I was walking four, five miles a day because I knew it was the right thing to do. And you've got to walk and not with a dog, slow walk. You've got to walk about four miles an hour, something like that. So walk plenty.

 

Find out what is on offer to help you recover.

Find out what is on offer to help you recover.

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 49
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I think they've got to start off with the hospital or with their GP, asking what can they do in the subsequent time when they're discharged. I think a lot of hospitals now employ what's called the Heart Manual and that's a very, very good resource to use because it has set out there what people can do and a diary of what they're doing. 

How to record their feelings and everything about it and that's enormously useful in bringing people's confidence back. If they've never heard of it, then they should make enquiries. It is available. Most hospitals now I think use it, if they don't they should be and the thing to do is not to be put off with vague answers. 

It's all there and they should ask their GPs or the cardiologist and if they don't get a satisfactory answer, just keep asking. There are people out there who will help; there are support groups. 

I think what we're doing here with this is another good way because there are very, very few cases of heart disease that disbar you from doing something to get your health back and for those people, it's unfortunate but a cardiologist will tell them. But for most people they've got to get out and do it and they can.

 

Think positively and give your body time to recover after bypass surgery.

Think positively and give your body time to recover after bypass surgery.

Age at interview: 84
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 81
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
You can't tear around, you've got to give your body chance to heal and this, this goes for anything, any operation with anyone. You've got to give your body chance to heal and also you've got to think right. You've got to think positive that you are going to heal. 

If the healing doesn't go as quick or as well as you think, then sit down and think why, what am I doing wrong? Am I pushing myself too much? Am I not having enough exercise? And I would say, I would suggest talk to the doctor and see whether he comes up with anything but mostly if you're sensible, you'll come up with something yourself. 

You'll say, 'ah I'm going too fast,' because you're body has got to heal. If you cut your finger and you keep going like that to it, it's never going to heal. In fact you're going to get complications and you'll die anyway. So you've got to be a bit of a doctor yourself. You've got to doctor yourself I think and you've got to think positive.

 

Speak up if you feel your needs are not being met.

Text only
Read below

Speak up if you feel your needs are not being met.

Age at interview: 63
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 62
HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I'm a bit diffident about this next piece of advice because we all know the system is over-stretched, cases have to be prioritised, and we just have to wait our turn. Nonetheless, I would urge people not to be afraid of speaking up if they genuinely feel their needs have not been properly understood or they just seem to be falling further behind in the queue. 

Looking back over my experiences I can see at least three points where I should either have followed my own instincts about the seriousness of the situation, or made more of a song and dance about the difficulties I was experiencing, or tried to hurry things up a bit. I think I did neither the system nor myself any favours by not doing so. 

 

Try not to be frightened of having heart surgery.

Try not to be frightened of having heart surgery.

Age at interview: 72
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 49
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Fear of the unknown is terrible and I think everyone has to appreciate that and we all suffer. We have different ways of showing it, some of us don't show it, I do show it. Nothing to be ashamed of. 

Anyone who's going to have heart surgery, you've got to be optimistic. The advancements made since even when I had my first surgery are tremendous; the number of surgeons and the procedures have improved dramatically. 

There is a percentage who will not get full recovery; very, very low percentage. The important thing is they will help you to whatever extent you require and to whatever extent they can. Both physically and mentally and the importance of after the surgery attending the rehabilitation and the importance of exercise and relaxation can't be emphasised too much. 

Try to get the fear out of your mind, I know it's impossible, but you've still got to try. Fear is the main thing that keeps a lot of people away from hospitals.

I know there's a fair waiting list nowadays. There's two ways at looking at it; if you're low down on the waiting list, you're not all that serious. If you're high on the waiting list then you will be pushed through and attended to quite early. That system is quite good. I think that's about it.

 

Get the information you need to understand what is happening to you.

Get the information you need to understand what is happening to you.

Age at interview: 51
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 51
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I would ask all the questions that you can, you know, just, try and, because you do need to get it straight in your own mind that was what I found. I wasn't just satisfied with being told, 'here, these are the pills, these will make you feel better and that's it.' 

I really wanted to know why and what was going to happen next and you know the consequences. So don't be satisfied with just having the treatment but say, 'what else is there? What are the alternatives?' and 'What does it mean? because I think you have to mentally get over the heart attack as well as physically. I think you have to be on top it.

 

Find out information from the cardiac care team and talk to other heart patients.

Find out information from the cardiac care team and talk to other heart patients.

Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Beyond that, is yeah, do ask questions, don't be frightened to ask questions. I find it not so much the, the doctors and the consultants don't want [you] to ask, I think they're just unused to putting in layman's terms and I think they can quite quickly flummox you. And they don't have time to be fair, they really have very limited time, but make use of, for our condition, the cardiac nurses, who I find are pretty good.

Make use of the cardiac nurses and the other support networks that come from that, like you go to rehabilitation, you meet other people. Talk to other people, realise that they've been through something similar, that you can actually get through it, as bad as it may feel at the time.

Last reviewed June 2017.

donate
Previous Page
Next Page