Here you will find information relating to diet, nutrition, stress and exercise, as well as advice on your return to work. These are all areas that are important to consider for your overall heart health as well as return to normality following a cardiac event, diagnosis of a cardiac condition or following heart surgery.
All of these subjects can be discussed further with your cardiac rehabilitation practitioners, as well as being covered by education sessions to be held throughout the year and offered to patients, relatives and friends.
The foods that you choose to consume have a massive influence on your overall health and that of your heart. Having a heart attack, being diagnosed with a heart condition or undergoing heart surgery doesn't mean that you are never again able to eat certain foods. However, it does mean that you should consider the foods that you are choosing to consume and moderate your consumption of unhealthy foods. Your cardiac rehabilitation practitioners can advise on any improvements that would be beneficial to your diet.
Foods that are especially damaging to the heart are those that are high in saturated fats. These include butters, cheeses, ready meals and animal fats. Saturated fats have been found to increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the body, which are linked to plaque build-up on the walls of arteries surrounding the heart. You should consume no more than 20g of saturated fats.
Tips to reduce your intake of saturated fats include:
- try not to consume ready meals
- remove any visible fats from cuts of meat prior to cooking
- avoid fried foods; choose to bake or grill foods instead
- when using cooking oils use a teaspoon to measure rather than pouring from the bottle
Salt can be damaging to the heart as it can increase blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, your heart must work harder to pump blood into a higher pressure system. Over time this greatly increases the workload of your heart. You should consume no more than 6g of salt per day; in practical terms, this equates to a level teaspoon. If you rely on salt to bring the flavour out of food then it is advised to search for alternatives such as herbs, spices or peppers, as these do not have such an adverse effect on the heart.
The British Heart Foundation supply multiple information booklets on nutrition, many of which are available in .pdf format on the British Heart Foundation website, or are available via your cardiac rehabilitation team.
Regular physical activity helps to keep your heart healthy and can reduce the risk of having further heart problems. Physical activity will provide many other benefits, including:
- improving the function of the heart and its ability to pump
- lowering blood pressure
- improving circulation
- improving cholesterol levels
- controlling weight and body shape
- reducing the risk of diabetes or helping to control diabetes
- boosting confidence and reducing anxiety
It is recommended that adults complete a total of 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate-intensity activity per week. This means activity that makes you feel warmer and breathe heavier, and makes your heart beat faster, but you should be able to maintain a conversation. Examples include walking, cycling, dancing or climbing stairs. You can do the 150 minutes in bouts of 10 minutes or more. One way is to do 30 minutes of activity on five days a week.
If you have recently had a heart attack, have angina, or have had coronary angioplasty or heart surgery, it is very important that you start slowly and gradually build up to this level of activity over a period of time.
Some people may not be able to complete this amount of activity, but it is still important to try to be as active as possible. Doing a small amount is better than nothing.
Most people are able to return to work even if they have had a heart attack, been diagnosed with a heart condition or following heart surgery. Before you are able to return to work it is important that your condition is stable and any symptoms that you might have are well controlled.
The speed at which you are able to return to work depends entirely on your condition, its severity and how quickly you are able to recover. Attending cardiac rehabilitation and following the advice of your cardiac rehabilitation practitioners will ensure that you progress back to your normal working life as soon as possible.
It is sometimes advisable to complete a phased return to work whereby you will commence reduced hours on your immediate return to work and gradually increase back to your regular, fulltime hours. This can help you to acclimatise back to normal working life.
Further information can be found in the British Heart Foundation publication 'Returning to work with a heart condition', available either through your cardiac rehabilitation team or available on the British Heart Foundation website in .pdf format.
It is normal to feel worried or anxious if you have recently suffered from a heart attack, have found out that you have got a heart condition or following heart surgery.
It is possible that you may feel overwhelmed and struggle to cope. This can lead to the adoption of bad habits such as consuming unhealthy foods, excessive drinking and avoidance of exercise, all of which can increase the risk of further heart problems. It is important to establish a normal, regular routine to help ease the symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression.
Attending cardiac rehabilitation sessions play an important role in this. It gives you an opportunity to discuss any of your concerns as well as improving confidence in your overall wellbeing and how much activity you are able to do. If your concerns don't go away, a member of the cardiac rehabilitation team will be able to refer you to somewhere that you can receive additional help.
If you feel that your concerns are becoming overwhelming and are stopping you from getting on with everyday life then you should consider making an appointment to see your GP.
Further information can be found in the British Heart Foundation publication 'Heart to heart—heart disease and your emotional health', available either through your cardiac rehabilitation team or on the British Heart Foundation website in .pdf format.