There are several risk factors that predispose you to having a heart attack–some of these are within your control and some are not. Of the risk factors you can control, some of the major ones are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, an unhealthy diet, high blood sugar, and a lack of routine physical exercise. Uncontrollable risk factors include age, a family history of heart disease, and a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, it is estimated that up to 20 percent of people aged 45 and older will experience another myocardial infarction within five years of the first one, and that up to 42 percent of women and 24 percent of men die within one year of experiencing a heart attack. Modifying controllable risk factors can reduce these odds.
After you experience a heart attack, there are several things that you should do and several things that you should avoid. You may gradually ease back into your everyday life, avoiding stressors. Many doctors advise taking up to three months off of work following a heart attack, and you might consider working part-time or if you’ve previously been a full-time worker. You must understand that even activities you considered completely mundane and normal may not be advisable, such as driving, for several weeks following your heart attack.
Although you are definitely at an increased risk of experiencing a follow-up heart attack after your first one, there are certainly things that you can do to reduce this risk. It is extremely important that you pay attention to the cues that your body is telling you, and to report any worrisome symptoms to your doctor immediately. Seek emergency help if you experience sudden, extreme fatigue, a rapid heartbeat, chest pain that travels to the arms, sweatiness for no reason, shortness of breath, leg swelling, or dizziness and fainting.
Out of the 805,000 Americans that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that have heart attacks each year, up to 200,000 of them have already had a previous heart attack. Being diligent about lifestyle changes and knowledgeable about risk factors can reduce your chances of another heart attack and may literally help to save your life.