Maintaining Cardiovascular Health After a Heart Attack
Heart attacks occur when a portion of the coronary artery becomes blocked, preventing blood flow to a section of the heart muscle. If the clot remains in place, that section of the heart muscle dies, preventing it from working properly. This phenomenon is also known as a coronary infarction.
Almost everyone who has survived a heart attack has suffered some damage to the heart, and will be at greater risk of having another heart attack. Doctors recommend that patients recovering from a heart attack take steps to improve or maintain their cardiovascular health, to reduce their risk of having another attack.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a specialized program to help patients recover from heart attacks and other cardiovascular events, such as surgery. The goal is to help patients reduce the risk of future heart attacks by increasing their physical fitness, and improving their overall health. Cardiac rehabilitation is also designed to reduce current cardiac symptoms to help them cope with the effects of heart disease.
Cardiac rehabilitation programs offer several different services, all designed to improve overall health. These services include medical evaluation, exercise and physical activity programs, counseling services, and physical or occupational therapy.
Medical evaluation involves regular checkups to determine the extent of the damage to the heart, how well the heart is recovering, and the overall prognosis. The medical evaluation also helps the medical staff design the rest of the cardiac rehabilitation program by:
· Determining how much exercise or physical activity the heart can withstand;
· Determining if the patient needs any counseling or physical therapy; and
· Determining the order in which patients should receive rehabilitative services.
Exercise and Physical Activity
The exercise and physical activity portion of cardiac rehabilitation is designed to strengthen the patient’s cardiovascular system. A physical therapist, or an exercise physiologist, will work with the patient’s doctor to design an exercise program specific to that patient’s needs and fitness level. Patients could start off in a group setting and eventually transition into one-on-one sessions with the trainer.
Patients who are unable to handle physical activity might be required to do other procedures, such as EECP, to help strengthen the blood vessels without putting strain on the heart through physical activity. A patient might be referred to a hospital for the procedure, or to a private clinic like Global Cardio Care, depending on which options are available.
Once the patient is strong enough, he may then transition to an exercise or physical activity program under the supervision of their physician and trainer, until he is strong enough to exercise on his own.
Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
Patients who have suffered a secondary injury as a result of the heart attack, such as partial paralysis as a result of brain damage from loss of oxygen to the brain during cardiac arrest, might need to have physical therapy to regain mobility before starting an exercise program. Patients might also need occupational therapy to relearn activities of daily living, or how to perform certain tasks for their jobs.
Counseling services could include, but are not limited to:
· Psychological counseling, to help patients cope with living with heart disease. The psychological counseling could also help both patients and their families cope, especially if the heart attack resulted in a secondary injury.
· Dietary counseling, to help patients learn healthy eating habits, and how to eat healthy without feeling deprived.
· Addiction or substance counseling, for patients who have substance issues that could cause their condition to worsen. For example, alcohol and smoking can both make heart disease worse.
· Medical counseling, to teach patients how to monitor their own health, such as taking their own blood pressure and heart rate reading, and learning to be aware of when they are having symptoms of a potential problem.
A heart attack is a serious, and potentially life-threatening, event. However, with the proper care, recovery is possible. With a few adjustments, many patients can return to their normal lives, including going back to work, after a heart attack.
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