“The Lifestyle Change that Saved Me”: 4 Heart Disease Patient Stories

Key changes go beyond just diet and exercise.

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Being diagnosed with heart disease or having a heart attack is understandably frightening, but your fate is still in your hands. “The more you learn about heart disease, you want to learn to keep a healthy heart,” says heart attack survivor Yesenia Araujo. Committing to certain lifestyle changes can improve your heart health and reduce your chances of experiencing another heart attack.

And you don’t have to wait until a heart attack or a doctor’s diagnosis to make heart-healthy changes. Many of the same lifestyle choices that manage heart problems can also help prevent them from happening in the first place. (And don’t forget to know your heart disease risk factors, get familiar with your blood pressure numbers, and check your cholesterol regularly.)

Not sure where to start? Here are the lifestyle changes these four heart attack survivors made after the heart attacks that took them by surprise.

Exercise—Every Day

“I work out every day. I try to walk or exercise at the gym. [I check] my foods’ labels and [eat] less fried foods.”

—Yesenia Araujo, heart attack survivor

Live in the Moment

“I’m able to appreciate being in the moment more because of the way I ran my first New York City Marathon after my surgery. I couldn’t push myself, and time was out the window. It was such a blessing in my life because I experienced every sensory minute of the marathon, and I’ve taken that [outlook] into my real life.”

—Sammy Rabin, heart disease patient

Practice Meditation

“I need to eat properly and increase my activity level. [I’m] even just thinking about ways to decrease stress [and] focusing on living more in the moment. I try doing some meditation. I’m not really good at it yet, but it’s something I’ve been practicing.”

—Dawn Platt, heart attack survivor

Find Calm with Yoga

“One of the causes—if I have to pick a cause for my heart attack—would be stress. It wasn’t unheard of before my heart attack for me to work 100 hours a week, so now what I try to do is minimize the number of hours I work.

“The other thing that has actually been hugely helpful with the amount of stress is I do yoga most days. Actually my doctor says it has an effect on my blood pressure.”

—Shaun Clancy, heart attack survivor

For more tips from real patients, here is fitness guru and heart attack survivor Bob Harper’s post-heart attack diet and new exercise regimen.