Life Changes after a Heart Attack: A total Guide to Preventing Further Attacks


If you have had a heart attack, you need to do several things to reduce the risk of having another one. This starts before you even leave the hospital.

Be an Active Part of Your Treatment Plan While Hospitalized

Your cardiologist, doctors, nurses, and other members of your care team are there to support you in your recovery. It’s up to you to take an active role in facilitating it. For example, don’t be afraid to ask your cardiologist why he or she decided to prescribe a certain medication or the reason for the recommended dosage. You can expect your doctor to change or discontinue medications you already take as well. At UPMC Western Maryland, we advise you to know the following about all medications you take:

  • The prescription and brand name of the medication prescribed
  • The symptoms it will treat
  • Minor or major side effects that you might experience
  • What time of day to take the medication and whether you need to take it with food
  • If any new medications your doctor prescribes interacts negatively with medications you already take

It’s also important to list the name of every medication you take along with the dosage and time that you take it. This information is helpful when you need to see providers not already familiar with your medical history.

Consider Mental Health Counseling

A heart attack can come as a shock to you and those who love you. It’s normal to feel anxiety, anger, and sadness over the fact you had a heart attack and what it means for your future. The physical and emotional effects of a heart attack can stay with you for several months. You may have to go on leave from work, have limited movement for a while, and generally take things at a much slower pace. Talking about your frustrations with a professional can help. Additionally, let others know how you’re feeling and how they can help you.

Lifestyle Changes You Need to Make to Prevent Another Heart Attack

If you smoke, the best thing you can do for your heart is to quit immediately. However, we understand that is easier said than done. Your cardiologist or primary care provider at UPMC Western Maryland is happy to provide you with smoking cessation resources. Some of these may include:

  • A prescription medication to reduce the craving for nicotine
  • Recommendations for tobacco alternatives as your body learns to live without it, including patches and gum
  • Referral to a support group for people trying to quit smoking and those who have recently quit

Keep in mind that most former smokers tried several times before they quit for good. Just take things one day at a time and use all the resources available to you. Additionally, ask people not to smoke near you as frequent exposure to secondhand smoke can increase your risk of developing heart disease or having another heart attack.

A second way to reduce your risk of another heart attack is to lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. If you have diabetes, it’s essential to manage it well. That means aiming for low A1C readings, taking medication as prescribed, practicing strict carbohydrate control, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough exercise. If you’re not sure how to change your diet and incorporate moderate exercise, ask your primary care provider for a referral to a UPMC Western Maryland dietician. These guidelines can help you make healthy food choices as well:

  • Choose low-fat foods
  • Eat at least seven ounces of fish every week
  • Strive for four to five servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Limit consumption of beverages with sugar to 36 ounces per week or less
  • Choose whole grain foods high in fiber
  • Avoid processed meat
  • Make sure that you don’t consume more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day

Your doctor may also impose other food restrictions depending on the severity of your heart attack and other health conditions that you have.

Attend Cardiac Rehabilitation

Your cardiologist will talk to you about attending a UPMC Western Maryland outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program before you leave the hospital. Your will regain your health faster by committing to this program. It offers the support of specialists trained in cardiac health who will assist you with exercise and counsel you on ways to reduce your risk of heart disease and a second heart attack. You will also receive support for dealing with the many conflicting emotions you may be experiencing as you work hard to recover.

A Heart Attack Can Give You a Whole New Life

Just because you have had a heart attack doesn’t mean your life is over. In fact, the best years could still be ahead of you with the help of your UPMC Western Maryland care team and your own dedication to getting better. We look forward to helping you reach a new and healthy phase of your life.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.