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Living with heart disease

There is no cure for heart disease, but the condition can be managed with treatment and lifestyle changes.

Here are some steps you can take to make living with heart disease easier:

  • Recognise the symptoms. Seek urgent medical advice or call an ambulance if symptoms become more frequent or severe, if rest and/or your medication does not relieve your symptoms within 15 minutes. Do not wait to get help.
  • Reduce your risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the greater the risk is of you developing future heart problems.
  • Take your medication. Your medications are used to control your symptoms and help your heart work more efficiently. Follow your doctor's instructions when you take your medication.
  • See your doctor for regular check-ups. Be sure to attend any outpatient appointments your consultant sends you and see your doctor regularly, even if you have no symptoms. Your outpatient appointments may be once a year or more frequent if your consultant feels you need to be followed more closely.

How can I reduce my risk factors?

Making the necessary lifestyle changes is not easy. It takes dedication and discipline to stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, and master techniques that will reduce your stress. The following tips may help get you started. But, it's a good idea to seek help from dieticians, doctors, and support groups to keep you on track.

Regardless of the lifestyle change you are trying to make:

  • Have a plan before starting
  • Create realistic goals for yourself
  • Master one change at a time - for example, stop smoking before changing your diet
  • Write a formal or informal contract to strengthen your commitment to make the necessary lifestyle changes
  • Prepare for lapses and relapses. Don't be too hard on yourself when this happens
  • Be sure to reward yourself when you do well - this doesn't mean treating yourself to fish and chips
  • Make sure you have plenty of support from your friends and family. Seek the help of support groups. Also, talk to your doctor about participating in a cardiac rehabilitation or healthy heart programme

Healthy diet and lifestyle for heart disease

Your GP says you need to make some changes in your life. You need to adopt a healthy diet, exercise a little, and stop smoking. Your GP has also prescribed some medication and you're wondering: "Why can't medicine alone do the trick? Does lifestyle really make a difference?"

The truth about lifestyle and heart disease

The truth is, medication won't cure heart disease, though it can certainly help control it. That means your lifestyle does matter - a lot.

For starters it's likely that some aspects of your lifestyle may have put you at risk of heart disease. These are called risk factors. Here's a list of common risk factors for heart disease:

  • Smoking tobacco
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Having unhealthy blood fat and cholesterol levels
  • Having diabetes
  • Being physically inactive
  • Being over 55 years old for men and over 65 years old for women
  • Having family members who had heart disease or a heart attack early in life: under 55 for your father or brother - under 65 for your mother or sister
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