By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen
By: Staff Reports | Gwinnett Citizen

8 mistakes heart patients make

By Jayne Kulp, 
Director of Cardiology Services
Gwinnett Medical Center

If you've already been through one heart attack, you're at increased risk for another, but with a few smart moves you can reduce that risk. Unfortunately, many heart patients have mistaken ideas about what's good for them.

Mistake 1: Thinking all heart attacks are the same.
If Aunt Mary had a heart attack even after a lifetime of eating low-fat foods and jogging every day, you may think changing your own lifestyle is not worth the trouble. Or, your friend may have given up his construction job after a heart attack, so you assume you'll need to give up your job, too. Work with your doctor to learn what's best for you personally.

Mistake 2: Not adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Learning to eat better may seem like the challenge of a lifetime--not to mention giving up cigarettes or making time for exercise. Yet, these are some of the best things you can do.

Important steps that can help prevent a second heart attack include:
•Quit smoking.
•Exercise regularly, according to your health care provider's advice.
•Eat a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and calories.
•Control your weight.
•Manage your blood pressure.
•Control your cholesterol levels, diabetes or any blood sugar abnormalities.

Mistake 3: Staying stuck in grief or depression.
You may have lost your healthy self-image or the ability to do important things in your life. Any major life change will bring feelings of loss and may require a grieving process.

If you or your family members are overwhelmed with feelings of grief or depression, don't hesitate to seek help from a mental health professional.

Mistake 4: Giving up on heart medications.
Don't stop taking your medications without talking to your health care provider. Work with your provider to determine what your choices are and what these medications can do for you in terms of risk versus benefit. Ask for help in choosing the ones that:

•Work the best for you
•Have the fewest side effects
•Are affordable
•You'll be comfortable taking

Mistake 5: Tiptoeing around your family.
Don't be afraid to make a big deal about your attempts at a healthy lifestyle; ask your loved ones to give you as much support as possible. 

Mistake 6: Staking your life on yesterday's truths.
In many cases, the treatments from just a few years ago already are considered outdated. There have been dramatic changes in medications and procedures, so stay up-to-date with regular visits to your health care team. 

Mistake 7: Shunning exercise.
It's crucial for someone who's already had a heart attack to exercise properly under the advice of a doctor. Get an exercise prescription designed just for you, based on your physical condition and your needs and interests.

One excellent way to get started is to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program.

Mistake 8: Not "bothering" your doctor with questions.
Your health care provider is your greatest ally and wants to partner in your care. Don't hesitate to call if you have questions or concerns.

Browse the Health (e) Library at www.gwinnettmedicalcenter.org to learn more about taking care of your heart. You can also read patient stories and find a cardiologist near you.