Surviving a heart attack can be a life-altering experience. Every symptom, big or small, can send you into a tizzy: “Is it happening again?”
Despite recovering, you may feel drained physically with symptoms like fatigue, insomnia and reduced appetite. Mentally, it can leave you exhausted, scared, irritable or even angry. The fear of potentially facing a second attack can be nerve-racking.
That being said, you don’t have to live the rest of your life in fear. With some care, you can prevent a second potential heart attack and lead a happy productive life. Let’s find out how.
Can you have a heart attack the second time?
The short answer is yes. One in five people who have had a heart attack may suffer another one again within five years .
Most people go on to live a long, productive life after a heart attack, but despite that, there’s always a looming fear of a second episode.
Luckily, there are ways to mitigate a second attack. Just planning ahead and knowing what to do in case of an emergency, can go a long way in saving lives.
How to prevent a second heart attack?
Irrespective of what statistics say, it’s possible to live a healthy life even after surviving a heart attack. Lifestyle factors take a big share of the blame for heart diseases. So, fixing all these issues would be a good place to start. This will require some major and minor tweaks to your lifestyle. Let’s look at all the ways.
1. Act “SMART”
If there’s a mantra that can go a long way in protecting your heart, it’s “SMART.” To ensure good heart health, set SMART goals, which are:
2. Take your medicines correctly as prescribed
This may seem like a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t anyone take their medicines properly? More often than not, people slack when it comes to medicines and not take them on time.
These medicines can lower your risk of another cardiac event. Taking them as prescribed – the right dose, at the right time and in the right manner – can prevent a second episode of a heart attack.
3. Quit NOW to win later!
Everyone knows about the dangers of smoking, yet few find the will to kick the habit. Smoking is one of India’s major causes of death, accounting for nearly 1.35 million deaths every year .
There’s no organ in the body that smoking doesn’t damage, and that includes the heart.
Naturally, kicking the habit can be quite rewarding. The risk of getting a second heart attack is reduced by 50% if the person stops smoking. Isn’t that saying something?
There’s more. The immediate effects of kicking the cigarette butt can reduce blood pressure within 20 minutes, improve blood circulation within 2 –12 weeks, and reduce the risk of coronary artery diseases by 50% .
4. Keep moving & moving
Who could have thought that a chair could become their biggest enemy? And a sedentary lifestyle is no different as it could spell disaster for your heart health. A study  showed that even adults who exercise rigorously could mess up their cardio-metabolic health if they sat around for prolonged periods.
Reducing these risks is as easy as taking a break every 30 mins or standing while talking on the phone or watching television. Any type of physical activity like brisk walking, cycling or even just moving around the house can prove to be beneficial.
5. Eat your way to good heart health
No conversation on heart health is complete without talking about diet. After all, you are what you eat. A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, prevent weight gain, and reduce the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Your heart loves a well-balanced diet full of veggies, fruit, whole grains and proteins. It hates red meat, processed foods and unsaturated fatty acids. According to the Heart Foundation, healthy eating for the heart doesn’t mean focusing only on one type of food or nutrient but including a variety of healthy foods in your diet.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t expect your health to turn around in a day or two. It hinges on what you eat over days, weeks, and months .
6. Get cardiac rehabilitation at the right time
Surviving a heart attack is only half the battle; you need to heal your heart to recover completely. A cardiac rehabilitation program could be just the thing you need.
As part of the program, healthcare professionals provide information, support and advice that could help heart attack survivors heal and return to their normal lives faster. By strengthening the heart, such programs can play a big role in preventing a second heart attack.
7. Be proactive with checkups
No matter how busy your life gets, don’t forget your commitment to your heart health. Regular checkups are a must.
Make a doctor’s appointment four to six weeks after you leave the hospital post a heart attack.
You may be asked to take an ECG (electrocardiogram) or sometimes additional assessments like your lipid profile to know how well your heart is functioning.
8. Pay attention to the warning signs
Listening to your body is a crucial step toward preventing another heart attack. Read the signs and get help at the earliest to prevent disability or death. Knowing what the warning signs are could also help you save someone else’s life. Call an ambulance immediately if you notice:
– Sudden and extreme fatigue
– Pain in the chest pain that travels to one or both arms
– Increased heart rate
– Extreme sweating
– Dizziness or loss of consciousness
– Swelling in the legs
– Difficulty in breathing
A heart attack can change your life, but it doesn’t define it. You can still live a productive life by following your treatment plan to a T and by making key lifestyle changes. If there are days when you feel worried, anxious or upset, lean on your support system in the form of family, friends or even doctors. Take care of your heart!
1. Proactive steps can reduce the chances of a second heart attack. American heart association. Apr 2019. Available online at: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/04/04/proactive-steps-can-reduce-chances-of-second-heart-attack
2. Tobacco in India. World Health Organization. Available online at: https://www.who.int/india/health-topics/tobacco
3. Health benefits of quitting smoking. Benefits of quitting.Centre for disease control and prevention. Sep 2022. Available online at:
4. Owen N, Healy GN, Matthews CE, Dunstan DW. Too much sitting: the population health science of sedentary behavior. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2010 Jul;38(3):105-13.