October 2001
Ask-a-Nurse: Lowering Your Risk of a Second Heart Attack

Lee Jimmie, RNI had a heart attack a few months ago, and I'm trying to be smarter about my heart health. How can I lower my risk of having another heart attack?

Lee Jimmie, RN, Healthy Heart Program (formerly Outpatient Cardiac Rehab) nurse of The Heart Institute at Bridgeport Hospital, responds:

People who have already had a heart attack are at higher risk for another attack than the general public, so it is smart of you to seek ways to control your risk. Here are some things you can do:

  • First, join a cardiac rehabilitation program such as the one at Bridgeport Hospital. This personalized program consists of monitored exercise, nutrition classes, and stress control techniques that can help you get back to an active life. At the same time, you'll learn techniques and skills to modify your lifestyle and reduce your risk factors for future cardiac events.
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco. Talk to your doctor about medications that can be prescribed to help you stop smoking. Join a stop-smoking program like Bridgeport Hospital's QuitSmartâ„¢.
  • Exercise at a brisk pace for 30-60 minutes three to five times a week. Start slowly and build your speed and distance gradually. Ask your doctor how hard you can safely exercise. Weight lifting will also help you strengthen your heart. (Women: Ahlbin Rehabilitation Centers offer a Women's Strength Training Program especially designed for you!)
  • Keep your cholesterol levels within the guidelines your doctor recommends. If your levels are not at goal, ask your doctor to refer you to a Registered Dietitian who can help you develop a nutrition plan. You may also be a candidate for cholesterol-lowering medicine if weight loss and a low cholesterol, low saturated fat diet are not enough for you.
  • Reach or maintain your ideal body weight by following a low calorie, low-saturated fat and low-cholesterol diet.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure you keep it in good control. Meet with a Registered Dietitian to learn the latest nutritional guidelines for diabetics.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly. If you have been told by your physician that you have high blood pressure, you can lower your blood pressure by adjusting your lifestyle. As well as losing weight if you are overweight and exercising more, you can use stress reducing techniques, and eat foods with less sodium to help lower your blood pressure.

Following these suggestions, and following your doctor's advice, can help reduce your risk of a second trip to The Heart Institute!

For information on Bridgeport Hospital's Healthy Heart Program (formerly Outpatient Cardiac Rehab) and Project Heart Smart Program, call 888-357-2396. For information on QuitSmart, call 888-357-2396. To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian, call the Outpatient Nutrition department at 384-3799. For information on Women's Strength Training, call 888-357-2396.

For a free guided imagery tape cassette, "A Meditation to Promote a Healthy Heart: Guided Imagery for Healthy Cholesterol, Open Arteries and a Strong Heart," or call 384-4441.