February 9, 2017

After a heart attack

A heart attack is a frightening, life-changing event that affects the entire family.

Emotional reactions. The typical reaction is worry or fear about the possibility of another heart attack. While those who have had a heart attack are at higher risk for having another one, only 18% of heart attack patients go back into the hospital in the first month after.

Becoming depressed is very common, with one-third of heart attack survivors experiencing depression. Depression can drain the patient’s motivation to follow up with needed medical and lifestyle changes. If you have a suspicion of depression in your relative, talk to the doctor. Depression is treatable. Provide your relative with support, by arranging pleasurable activities for them. The goal here is to get back to a more normal life. Try going to the movie theater or watching children play at the park.

Some other common emotional reactions include anger or frustration, especially at first, when tasks that are usually easy prove to be tiring or difficult.

Mental reactions. Many heart attack patients complain of fuzzy thinking. This issue usually clears up in time. For the first few weeks following the incident, don’t expect your relative to buzz through the crossword puzzle.

Common physical reactions include shortness of breath and fatigue, sleep problems and palpitations (a fluttery heart beat). If you have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to check in with the doctor.

When to get help. If your relative experiences and of the following symptoms, the American Heart Association suggests to contact medical personnel right away:

  • Chest pain, tightness, pressure or pain in the arms, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Pale, sweaty skin
  • Very fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Swelling or pain in the legs
  • Sudden, overwhelming fatigue

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