Suffering a heart attack is a frightening experience, and one that affects about 790,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While recovering physically and emotionally from a first heart attack, patients also have to consider what they might do differently to prevent a second cardiac event.
Sometimes, the best advice comes from the people who know best what you’re going through. We asked four heart disease patients and heart attack survivors what helped them the most during their recoveries and beyond.
Don’t Do It Alone
“My husband would go to the doctor’s appointments with me. It’s always helpful to have a second person in the room listening to what the doctors are saying, and also to ask questions maybe that I’m not thinking of at the moment.”
—Dawn Platt, heart attack survivor
Listen to Your Body
“The biggest change after I had my heart attack is I listened to my body a lot more. We all get tired, but there [are] different types of tired. Sometimes you try to plow through it [and get] an extra cup of coffee.
“What I did afterward was—when I reached that point when I knew I was done—I was done. I’d go home, I’d leave early.”
—Shaun Clancy, heart attack survivor
Find Support in Your Community
“My doctor recommended Women’s Heart, [a] nonprofit organization that helps women deal with heart issues, and that was very helpful because I didn’t feel alone. We all have different heart conditions, but we’re all in the same boat. We have to find ways to keep striving to live.”
—Yesenia Araujo, heart attack survivor
Realize Things Will Get Better
“I never thought I’d be the same, and I was really down. As time went on, things got back to normal. Anything I could do to stop somebody from going down that road of getting down about this and [feeling] that your life will not be the same, I’m all too happy to share my experience and let them know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
—Sammy Rabin, heart disease patient
For more recovery tips, here is a cardiologist’s most important advice after a heart attack, lifestyle tweaks for a healthier heart, and post-heart attack diet tips from fitness guru Bob Harper.