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Ask The Expert: What to do after surviving a heart attack

(NC) Each year, about 70,000 heart attacks happen in Canada. Fortunately, in more than 90 per cent of cases, the person will survive. Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson and author of Heart Health for Canadians, sheds light on what survivors should keep in mind as they enter this next stage in their life.

Q: My husband recently had a heart attack and I'm worried it could happen again. What can we do to help prevent another incident?

A: Once you've had a heart attack you are at increased risk for another. Which is why it's even more important to take your medication and make some lifestyle changes. Adopting healthy behaviours can help lower your husband's risk and help you make healthy changes at the same time. These include exercising regularly (at least 150 minutes each week), eating a healthy diet (five to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day) and reducing stress. Being smoke free is also really important as is limiting alcohol consumption. Take these changes one step at a time.

Also, a cardiac rehabilitation program can help your husband recover to the best extent possible and support him to adopt and maintain healthy changes. Rehabilitation makes survivors feel better and improves their quality of life. Taking advantage of these programs when available is essential because they are shown to improve participants' health and to lower mortality by as much as 25 per cent. If he has not been sent on to a cardiac rehabilitation program ask your doctor to do so.

Thanks to medical developments over the past 60 years, we are making progress and reducing the odds of serious problems in people who suffer a heart attack. Advances in prevention, surgical procedures and drug therapies have helped make this possible – many of which were supported by research funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Since its inception, the Foundation has committed more than $1.39 billion to heart and stroke research, and helped create the 165,000 survivors of heart disease and stroke who went home to their families last year.

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