Heart Health

Six Tips to Support a Loved One After a Heart Attack

A heart attack [LINK to Heart Attack Warning Signs article] often comes as a surprise. What’s more, after having a heart attack, life suddenly changes.

It’s extremely common to experience depression and anxiety after having a heart attack. Some people worry about the changes they need to make to get healthy again and avoid future heart issues. Others may fall into depression and find they struggle to do even the most basic everyday tasks. It’s important to be supportive about the emotions your loved one is working through.

Although it may seem kinder to let your loved one take it easy, it’s better to encourage him or her to take steps to reclaim their life. Here are some tips to help support your loved one as he or she recovers from a heart attack:

  1. Encourage cardiac rehab – This is typically done in three phases. Phase I provides education regarding a patient’s specific heart condition, at-home walking program and at-home emergency management. Phase II is a 12-week program that includes aerobic exercise three times a week and tips and classes for lifestyle improvements, including dietary changes and stress management. Phase III is an optional maintenance program geared toward helping participants make fitness a lifelong habit. The benefits of attending cardiac rehab are more than just physical. Participants also benefit from the camaraderie and emotional support from fellow participants.
  2. Go along to appointments – Patients only hear about 25 percent of what is told to them. Having a second set of ears in the room is extremely helpful.
  3. Help manage medications – Your loved one will likely need to take new medications. Especially during the initial recovery period, it’s helpful to have another person organize what medications need to be taken and when, understand what the medications are for and know how they help lower the risk of another heart attack.
  4. Prepare healthy meals – Take it a step further and eat these meals with your loved one. Put yourself in his or her shoes. For example, if your loved one loves cheeseburgers but can no longer eat them, don’t eat one in front of him or her.
  5. Get active together – Exercise is important for those recovering from a heart attack. You can support your loved one by suggesting activities you can do together, such as taking a walk, going for a bike ride or practicing yoga.
  6. Check in daily – A regular check-in gives you both an opportunity to voice any fears or concerns as well as talk through things that might help your loved one feel more supported in his or her recovery.

Edward-Elmhurst Health provides comprehensive and compassionate care for heart attack survivors. Our nurse navigators will provide information and support while also answering any questions you may have during recovery.

Want to learn more about your risk for having a heart attack? Take our free online HeartAware Risk Assessment. If you wish to be evaluated in person, request an appointment online or call tel:630-527-6363.