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What to Expect After a Heart Attack

Your loved one suffered a heart attack. Thankfully, he or she survived. But that leaves the question: What now? What can you expect after a heart attack? What symptoms are normal and what are not?

According to Dr. Jason Freeman, an Interventional Cardiologist at South Nassau Communities Hospital, "if the patient has an angioplasty, or a stent, they should have almost no heart-related symptoms," Dr. Freeman says.

Symptoms that are associated with heart trouble – such as chest pain, shortness of breath, leg swelling – are all abnormal after a heart attack. If your loved experiences these symptoms, get medical attention immediately.

Symptoms that are common following heart attacks are:

Fatigue

Fatigue is normal, Dr. Freeman says. Nearly all patients recovering from a heart attack will experience some level of fatigue. Just getting out of bed, taking a shower, and dressing may be exhausting at first. In the first week, your loved one should begin walking five minutes, five times a day, according to the American Heart Association. Eventually, the person must start to return to normal activity.

Start slow: get dressed each morning. Have your loved one take care of all personal hygiene (bathing, shaving, dressing). Make sure your loved one paces him/herself. Spread activities throughout the day. Walk every day as prescribed by the doctor. A regular walking program is a good way to regain energy, without overdoing it. Ask your doctor about the right amount of exercise for your loved one.

Anxiety

Fear is common following a heart attack. Your parent may feel anxious and worried that he or she will have another heart attack. Let your parent talk about fears. Don't brush off their concerns. If it's difficult for you to listen, help your loved one find a support group or a counselor. If your parent's fear and anxiety persists for more than four weeks, talk to the doctor.

Some people are also afraid to exercise, afraid to exert themselves. Cardiac rehabilitation – exercise under supervision, might give your parent the confidence that they need. As soon as you get the doctor's okay, encourage your loved one to get moving.

Depression

When someone suffers a heart attack, it can turn his or her world upside down. It's common to feel depressed after surviving a heart attack. In fact, one out of three patients report feeling anxious or depressed after a heart attack or heart surgery, the American Heart Association says.

People recognize their own mortality. They feel that they can no longer count on their body to do what it once did. Or they may be grieving for the life they had. To try and help your parent, structure the day around activities that give your parent pleasure and a sense of purpose. But don't ignore the depression if it continues.

"Depression and anxiety are well-documented side effects of a heart attack. Usually, the person still can't believe they had a heart attack. It's a real blow to their psyche," Dr. Freeman says. "If depression continues for more than a month, notify the doctor. It could be a serious problem that requires evaluation and treatment." says Dr. Freeman.

Although a heart attack always presents challenges, keep in mind that every heart attack is different. Symptoms vary, causes differ, and treatment depends on many factors.

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