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Five Ways Your Life Changes After a Heart Attack

Surviving a Heart attack is one of the most difficult and terrifying experiences that a person and their family encounter. The sense of impending doom that accompanies a heart attack is indescribable and survivors usually have the same thought on their minds after all has passed: “I don’t want to experience that again!” or “what should I do to ensure that never happens again?”

Fortunately, we live in a time where information and tools are available to help prevent a repeat heart attack.

This is in the form of solid data obtained from proved scientific research regarding medications, medical interventions, your cardiologist and, importantly, lifestyle changes including stress management, customised nutrition diet plans and exercise supervision with an elite personal trainer London based.

These can help to reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack and help stabilise and, sometimes, even reverse the progression of Coronary Heart Disease.

It is important to build on the momentum of strong will that is present immediately following a heart attack to start making the necessary life-changing decisions for this life-changing event [1,2].

1. Diet for better heart health [2,3,4,5,6]:

It’s time to start taking control of what you eat and drink.

The labels on all food products are there for a reason. They easily guide you to the contents of what you are about to ingest to help you make better choices. Aim at the following goals:

  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables:

Around seven to ten portions a day. A portion is about a handful.

  • Eat an adequate amount of carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates in rational amounts are quite healthy. Try to take whole grain options whenever possible.

  • Reduced your intake of fats:

It is important to be aware about the types of fat you are consuming. These can be saturated, unsaturated or trans fats. All fat intake regardless of type should be kept to a minimum.

1. Saturated fat:

Saturated fat elevates the level of blood cholesterol which in turn increases the risk of developing heart attacks. You should aim at replacing it with small amounts of unsaturated fat.

2. Unsaturated fat:

This can be monounsaturated (such as olive oil, almond oil, rapeseed oil) or polyunsaturated (such as sunflower oil, fish oils, walnuts). They are the healthier choice and should be consumed in small amounts. Aim for virgin, and cold press, organic oil.

3. Trans fat:

This is another harmful type of fat that should be avoided as it increases inflammation, cellular damage and blood cholesterol level.

  • Reduce your intake of salt:

Excessive salt intake may cause high blood pressure which is a risk factor for developing heart attacks. You should aim at consuming no more than 2.5 grams of salt daily (half of a teaspoon).

  • Eat an adequate amount of plant-based proteins such as beans and a few nuts and seeds.
  • Be mindful of your alcohol consumption, keep it to the minimum or eliminate it completely.

2. Lifestyle changes [2,3,4,5,6]:

A busy, stressful, deadline-oriented lifestyle can have deleterious effects on your heart’s health. This doesn’t mean that you must quit your job or anything.

However, you must train yourself on how to properly manage stress and all other lifestyle factors related.

Enrolling in meditation or one to one Pilates with a Pilates personal trainer London based will be helpful.

It is important to understand the value of your mental and psychological well-being, as this has a direct impact on your general health and is associated with better long-term outcomes and helps prevent the progress of Heart Disease.

At times, it may be advisable to speak to your physician, councillor, coach or a psychiatrist about your feelings, especially if you happen to experience continued sense of fear, anxiety, or depression after recovering from a heart attack.

These are natural feelings after such a devastating life event and specialists are there to help you get through it. The import thing is not to let these feelings overwhelm you and at the same time not to ignore them.

Being aware of these issues and addressing them is part of your healing journey.

Quitting smoking should be a top priority. This is because smoking has been scientifically proved beyond doubt to cause and accelerate the progression of coronary heart disease, putting you at risk of a repeat heart attack.

Research has proved that quitting, rather than just reducing the number of cigarettes per day is the only way to stop this.

If you are overweight or obese you should start a nutrition diet plan that aims at reducing inflammation levels and your body weight down to the recommended levels.

You should also speak to your physician about when to resume normal sexual activity.

Men who might require medications for erectile dysfunction should receive clear instructions on if and how to use such drugs according to their medical condition.

3. Physical activities changes [2,3,4,5,6]:

Getting back on your feet and getting to move is not just important but is a cornerstone of your recovery after a heart attack.

Regular moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes on at least five days a week should be started as soon as you are cleared by your physician and an elite personal trainer London based will help you transforming your life guiding, supervising you and exercising safe.

For details on the types of sport you can perform an elaborate conversation and evaluation needs to be performed by your physician and comprehensive fitness assessment completed with your personal training/fitness expert..

After a heart attack, patients are classified into either a low-risk or high-risk group for sports participation, according to several variables which include:

  • Age.
  • Smoking status.
  • Having hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Having diabetes (high blood glucose level).
  • Having high blood cholesterol levels.
  • Heart muscle efficiency.
  • Exercise capacity (i.e. level of fitness).
  • Presence of untreated coronary artery stenosis (narrowing).
  • Presence of arrhythmias (abnormal heart beats).
  • You will usually be asked to perform a treadmill or bicycle stress test and a 24-hour ambulatory ECG monitoring.

In general, all forms of leisure-time sports are encouraged whilst, monitored in the first 6 to 8 months.

The problem lies with competitive sports, which are usually denied, and only certain types are permitted after 12 months of being event/symptom free and having completed a cardiac rehabilitation programme.

These will be of the so called low-moderate static/low dynamic type according to the Bethesda classification of sports [7], such as archery, bowling, cricket, golf, rifle shooting, sailing, judo, karate, gymnastics, diving, equestrian, and auto racing.

For all heart patients participating in competitive sports, annual check-ups and stress testing is a must [8,9].

4. Medical follow-ups [2,3,4,5,6]:

Before you leave the hospital after having recovered from a heart attack you should have been provided with a detailed explanation of the medications that you will be taking, a time-line of your regular doctor visits and will usually be given brochures and information about joining a cardiac rehabilitation programme.

It is important to have a clear understanding about the medications you are prescribed regarding their dosage, possible side effects, how to act in case of missing a dose …etc.

It is also important to inform your physician about any other medications and natural/herbal remedies you might be receiving for other medical conditions to assess the possibility of drug interactions.

Try as much as possible not to miss any scheduled regular check-ups and make sure you are aware of the warning signs of a suspected repeat heart attack and how to act if such an unfortunate situation occurs.

Remember to always discuss any symptoms you feel with your physician no matter how trivial you think they are. It is especially important to discuss any changes you might feel to your level of physical activity or the amount of effort that causes you to feel tired or out of breath.

Participation in cardiac rehabilitation programmes will be presented to you as part of your recovery journey.

It has been scientifically proved to help stop and may be even reverse the process of atherosclerosis (narrowing of coronary arteries due to fat deposition) and significantly reduce the number of deaths for survivors of a heart attack.

5. Risk of a repeat heart attack [2,3,4,5,6]:

There are more than a handful of risk factors responsible for the possibility of a repeat heart attack. However, most of them are reversible, modifiable or at least controllable.

Here is a list of the risk factors and how they are managed to reduce the risk of a repeat heart attack:

1. Smoking:

By quitting smoking the risk of coronary heart disease is reduced by half after six months and nearly eliminated after five years [10].

2. Hypertension:

Adequate control of blood pressure is vital. In addition, several blood pressure medications have additional beneficial cardiovascular protective effects [11].

3. Diabetes:

Normal or near-normal blood glucose levels are necessary to slow down the progression of coronary heart disease.

Uncontrolled diabetes leads to acceleration of the atherosclerosis process [12].

4. High blood cholesterol:

All necessary means should be undertaken to achieve recommended target levels of blood low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C). Statins (cholesterol lowering medications) have additional effects that protect the lining of the coronary arteries and significantly slow down fat deposition.

5. Family history of premature heart attacks:

Having a close family member that developed a heart attack at a relatively young age (less than 55 years in men and less than 65 years in women) is one of the few things that are out of your control. However, if such is the case it should motivate you to work hard on controlling the other risk factors [13].

6. Obesity:

Personal training weight loss programme to reach ideal body weight should be applied.

7. Sedentary lifestyle:

Get up and start moving whilst being guided and supervised by an elite personal trainer London based. If you live in London an active lifestyle with regular custumised personal training is a must for all survivors of a heart attack.

8. Stress:

Proper stress management protocols should be presented to the patient and any situations with anxiety, fears or depression should be addressed.

9. Inadequate medical treatment/follow-up:

Not following your doctor’s recommendations regarding medications to be taken and regular follow-ups to be attended puts you at continued risk.

In conclusion

A heart attack is one of the most difficult experiences that a patient and their family/caregivers encounter.

It requires life-changing changes to stop the progression of coronary heart disease and prevent the development of a repeat heart attack.

These encompass changes in lifestyle (like quitting smoking, reducing BMI by losing excess body weight and managing stress); dietary habits (increasing intake of fruit and vegetables, high-fibre diet, whole grain products and reducing fat and salt intake through a custumised nutrition diet plan); regular customised personal training (supervised moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes for at least five days a week to begin with then, increasing it to 1 and 1 ½ hour); control of risk factors (such as inflammation, hypertension, diabetes, high blood cholesterol and stress) and following prescribed medical therapies and follow-ups.

These lifestyle changes are properly explained in supervised, specifically designed and patient-tailored programmes called “Cardiac Rehabilitation programmes”.

These are personalised for each client based on their risk factors, medical condition, cardiologist advice and baseline level of physical activity.

How Cardiac Rehabilitation Helps [14]

Cardiac rehabilitation programmes help:

  1. Control the symptoms related to heart disease such as chest pain, shortness of breath or undue fatigue.
  2. Reduce the risk of death or repeat heart attack.
  3. Improve the patients’ physical activity regardless of their baseline level, hence, making them feel better about themselves which puts them on the right track to properly manage and control their disease.
  4. Improve the patient’s mental and psychological status. This helps patients manage stress and confront their fears and anxiety.
  5. Stops and may even reverse the process of atherosclerosis.
  6. Helps reduce inflammation, control blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels (these are just a few things which matter). This is achieved by medications and custumised lifestyle modification interventions including monitored nutrition and bespoke personal training.
  7. Helps with body weight control.
  8. Guides the patients to healthy eating habits and aids them in stopping smoking by joining smoking cessation programmes.

About Jazz Alessi – The Cardiac Rehab Exercise Specialist

I am an Elite Personal Trainer, Clinical Exercise Specialist, Second Generation Pilates Trainer, long term Certified Nutritionist and Weight Loss Expert.

I offer cardiac rehabilitation programmes tailored to my clients’ unique needs which are done in close collaboration with your cardiologist or if you chose, and specialised physicians.

I use evidence-based approaches which guarantee safety throughout the programe and getting the best results.

I work with clients who have suffered from heart attacks or struggle with cardiovascular diseases and if you want to supporting you to feeling better and achieve your cardiac rehabilition goals, contact me now by clicking on this link, here.


  1. British Heart Foundation. Preventing Heart disease. 2017.
  2. NHS. Heart attacks.
  3. Duerden M, O'Flynn N, Qureshi N. Cardiovascular risk assessment and lipid modification: NICE guideline. Br J Gen Pract. 2015 Jul;65(636):378-80. doi: 10.3399/bjgp15X685933.
  4. Rabar S, Harker M, O'Flynn N, et al. Lipid modification and cardiovascular risk assessment for the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: summary of updated NICE guidance. BMJ. 2014 Jul 17;349:g4356. doi: 10.1136/bmj.g4356.
  5. Perk J, De Backer G, Gohlke H, et al. European Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice (version 2012). The Fifth Joint Task Force of the European Society of Cardiology and Other Societies on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice (constituted by representatives of nine societies and by invited experts). Eur Heart J. 2012 Jul;33(13):1635-701. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehs092
  6. Smith S, Benjamin E, Bonow R et al. AHA/ACCF secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update: a guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation endorsed by the World Heart Federation and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011 Nov 29;58(23):2432-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2011.10.824.
  7. Mitchell J, Haskell W, Raven P. Classification of sports. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1994 Oct;24(4):864-6.
  8. Börjesson M, Assanelli D, Carré F, et al. ESC Study Group of Sports Cardiology: recommendations for participation in leisure-time physical activity and competitive sports for patients with ischaemic heart disease. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention & Rehabilitation 2006 13: 137. DOI: 10.1097/01.hjr.0000199494.46708.5a
  9. Maron B, Thompson P, Ackerman M, et al. Recommendations and Considerations Related to Preparticipation Screening for Cardiovascular Abnormalities in Competitive Athletes: 2007 Update : A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism: Endorsed by the American College of Cardiology Foundation. Circulation. 2007;115:1643-1655. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.181423
  10. Chehab O, Dakik H. Interventions for Smoking Cessation in Patients Admitted with Acute Coronary Syndrome: Review. Postgrad Med J. 2017 Sep 23. pii: postgradmedj-2017-135040. doi: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2017-135040.
  11. Rosendorff C, Lackland D, Allison M, et al. Treatment of hypertension in patients with coronary artery disease: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and American Society of Hypertension. Hypertension. 2015 Jun;65(6):1372-407. doi: 10.1161/HYP.0000000000000018.
  12. Raymond T, Raymond R, Lincoff A. Management of the patient with diabetes and coronary artery disease: a contemporary review. Future Cardiol. 2013 May;9(3):387-403. doi: 10.2217/fca.13.22.
  13. Nasir K, Budoff M, Wong N et al. Family history of premature coronary heart disease and coronary artery calcification: Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Circulation. 2007 Aug 7;116(6):619-26. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.688739.
  14. Oldridge et al. Cardiac Rehabilitation After Myocardial Infarction - Combined Experience of Randomized Clinical Trials. JAMA 1988;260:945-950. doi: 10.1001/jama.1988.03410070073031

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Five Ways Your Life Changes After a Heart Attack


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