Whether someone has heart problems from birth or develops them later, all cardiac patients should examine the role they play in making healthful lifestyle decisions. This process of self-evaluation might be difficult; perhaps you find yourself thinking, “If only I hadn’t started smoking,” or, “I should have taken more time to exercise,” but it is vital in order to set up good lifestyle habits from the day of diagnosis onward.
“Once, as a patient, you recognize your problems,” says Dr. Krasuski, “you can ask, ‘What can I do for me to avoid problems in the future?’” Diet, exercise and smoking impact heart health. A heart healthy diet is low in fat and cholesterol. Watching salt intake is important, too, especially when eating out. “Often, restaurant menus will list ‘heart-healthy’ foods, but that doesn’t always mean they have low salt,” he says. “Exercise is very important, too, but it’s not easy,” says Dr. Krasuski. “It’s a challenge for all of us. But, the effort you put in will equal the benefit you get back.” The type of exercise each person does varies, depending on an individual’s abilities and goals. Doctors, cardiac rehab specialists, and physical therapists are excellent resources for guidance on this. “There are people who are quite limited in what they can do,” Dr. Krasuski explains.
“You have to adapt the program to the patient. But, every time we do an exercise/heart study, we find exercise is beneficial.” Last but not least, “If you smoke, you need to stop,” says Dr. Krasuski. “Smoking is just bad, it doesn’t matter which form of heart disease you have.”