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PGSCA, July 20,  2020  1:57am EST


Good evening!  I had a heart attack last Thursday.  I thought I was having a panic attack and so I took some Ativan.  I had a feeling of tightness on my chest and arms and shoulders.  It turns out I had blockage in two areas and I had two stents placed.  I was released from the hospital on Saturday and am recovering well at home!  I'm very emotional and worried.....I'm feeling angry and scared..... I was not given any information on dietary issues.  Im still very tired and a bit short of breath.  Is this normal?  Thank you all for reading my post and I would certainly appreciate any and all responses!

9 Replies
  • AHAASAKatie
    AHAASAKatie, July 20,  2020  9:17am EST

    Good morning, I am so sorry that you had to experience this. You have absolutely come to the right place for support and education. I can share what we have on Heart Attacks & Cardiac Rehab and Healthy Eating.
    We have a great many heart attack survivors and look forward to their sharing notes of encouragement as well. 

    Please know that we are always here for you. best Katie

  • EMON1
    EMON1, July 20,  2020  11:18am EST

    Unfortunately, what you felt and experienced was/is very common as far as being angry, feeling uninfomed and scared. Nobody seems to commit to a particular diet, among other things.The biggest thing right now is making sure you TAKE YOUR MEDS. The whole thing is a very physical and EMOTIONAL head trip. Expect a lot of ups and downs and there's much adjusting to take in.

  • KarlR
    KarlR, July 20,  2020  2:13pm EST

    I'm glad to hear that you were released quickly and are recovering well.  Those are both good signs.

    People's experiences with heart attacks (and the aftermath) can vary.  Therefore, I can mostly discuss only what I've experienced (and a little bit of what others have previously discussed).  I had my heart attack about four weeks before yours, so I'm still working through the early days.

    Regarding shortness of breath: This wasn't a symptom that I experienced, so I have a few questions.  Did you have the shortness of breath (post-MI) while you were still at the hospital?  Did you discuss the shortness of breath with your cardiiologist prior to your discharge?  Has the shortness of breath changed or gotten any worse since you left the hospital?

    If the shortness of breath has developed since you left the hospital and your cardiologist is unaware of it, then I'd recommend calling his office for medical advice.  If, on the other hand, he knew about the symptom before you were discharged, he determined that it wasn't of concern (while having access to your EKG results, as will as other test results), and it hasn't gotten any worse, then it's an indication that your cardiologist wasn't worried about it.

    Don't be afraid to call your cardiologist's office if something might be wrong.  I called mine twice during the first week: once because my blood pressure meds were overly effective, then later when the bruising in my groin was increasing, rather than decreasing.  In the first case he lowered my meds to a level that was better for me.  In the second case, he just waited until my one week appointment.

    Regarding dietary guidance: I wasn't overtly given any specific guidance either.  On the other hand, I paid a lot of attention to the "heart healthy" menus I was given while in the hospital.  Once I got home, I simply got onto the internet and started researching.  I would recommend starting out with a few articles that discuss heart healthy foods, as well as ones that discuss the unhealthy foods.

    While that will give you a starting point, it won't address all the foods you commonly eat.  To answer these questions, I've been routinely Googling Is ____ heart healthy?  I've been pleasantly surprised at the number of foods that are not just permitted, but actually great for heart health: hummus, salsa, shellfish, cashews, etc.

    The hardest one to get a good answer about was processed grains (e.g. white rice, white flour, and anything made from them).  It was easy to find sources that stated they should be replaced by whole grains.  But realistically, there's no way I can eliminate them entirely from my diet.  I finally found a reputable source that stated that at least half of the grains I consume should be whole grains.  That's a lot more manageable.  (To be clear, that's whole grain.  Not to be confused with multi-grain ... even though people selling multi-grain products try to trick us into thinking that multi-grain is somehow healthier.)

    Regarding feeling tired: Hospitals are not restful places.  I was exhausted when I got home.  It tooks me days to catch up on my sleep.  In addition, my body was recovering from multiple injuries.  Not just the damage that may have occurred to my heart muscle, but also the massive contusion in my groin caused by the cath entry (while I was pumped full of blood thinners).  I normally feel tired when my body is trying to recover from similar things, and this was no exception.  As I recovered, I stopped needing as much extra rest.

    Regarding feeling emotional, worried and scared: That's normal for heart attack survivors.  Most survivors feel that way.  Moreover, the pandemic is not making this easier for anyone.  Our support networks no longer function the same way they used to.  Due to the pandemic, the two people that I see on a daily basis have been increasingly showing symptoms of mild depression over the last few months.  Psychologists and counselors are now in short supply.

    Important first steps: As Emon1 stated, take your meds.  I bought a pillminder to help me keep track of all the new meds.  Since I'm unaccustomed to taking meds in the evening, I've been setting an alarm as a reminder.  In addition, attend your cardiologist appointments.  Follow any medical advice that he/she gives.

    You were (likely) instructed to get into a Cardiac Rehab program.  Due to Covid 19, getting into those programs has become a lot harder.  However, studies have shown that attending Cardiac Rehab has a significant impact on long-term outcomes for heart attack survivors like us.  Even before then, find out what exercise you can start doing on your own.  The discharge instructions I was given included some exercise instructions.  More importantly, my cardiologist encouraged me to walk as much as I wanted to.  I started walking laps around the floor at the hospital as soon as they moved me from the ICU to a regular room.  I continued walking every day when I got home.  I'm now in Cardiac Rehab and back on my bicycle.

    Take Covid 19 precautions seriously.  When the public health officials talk about "people who are at risk," that's us.  I'm in one of the regions currently experiencing a major spike in cases.  Hopefully things are better in your location.

  • JamesPL
    JamesPL, July 20,  2020  5:56pm EST

    Feeling angry and scared is a common reaction but now it's time to look forward and make changes to get yourself back to your quality of life. There is plenty of information out there on what type of diet you should be on. I would press your doctor on the issue. I had asked my cardiologist what foods I should be eating and what foods I could eat (that I knew were not an ideal choice). She gave me some good tips and about the foods that are less desireable, she told me I could have them but just to not make it a habit. I was still a little confused about how I should handle my diet so I tried a common sense approach. I've avoided foods that are obviously not good for the heart such as potato chips, bacon, most fried foods...etc. I do eat a lot more salads than I used to and over time I've learned about some of the things that are heart healthy or at least not as risky. I will have meat on occasion (after not having it at all for awhile) and when I do, I'll eat grass fed and very lean meat. I've also increased fruit and nuts into my diet and am eating many more foods that are organic. It's been sort of transitional and as you educate yourself, you'll probably find the same.

    I also highly recommend getting into an exercise program if you are not already there. Ask your doctor about cardiac rehab. It was a real boost to my recovery that was also therapeutic for my mental health. Once you've completed it, continue to exercise. This is a great way to strengthen your heart, Even daily brisk walks can make a difference.

    This is all new to you and very frightening but you do have a life to live. Take the steps and you'll find yourself returning to that life you enjoyed!

    I wish you all the best!


  • steveSD
    steveSD, July 20,  2020  11:16pm EST

    That sounds a lot like my experience. I had "panic attacks" for a little over a week before I finally made it to urgent care and got sent to the ER with a heart attack.

    I also had shortness of breath when I got back from the hospital but after a month I still couldn't go up the stairs without having to catch my breath so I went back and got another stent. Then I could breath and I slowly started to exercise more. Cardiac rehab was really good and most people here will attest to that. I learned what to watch out for during exercise and how much I could push myself. I also told myself that even if I only did 20 minutes of exercise 4-5 days a week it was ok as long as I did something. Eventually I worked up to a lot more.

    As for diet I immediately switched to as clean eating as possible. No sugar, processed food, junk food, refined starches, and stopped drinking alcohol. More leafy greans, more beans/legumes, more fish, outmeal with flax, chia, blueberries, and walnuts, grass fed beef, and vegetables. That really helped my cholesterol and my A1C. The exercise was great too. Mentally the fear and anxiety took longer to get used to. I'd say it was about 18 months before I really felt like I was strong again. That was also when my angina symptoms subsided. I still have issues from time to time as I recently posted about but all in all I feel great most of the time. I worked hard to get to this place. It's tough to stay on top of it but worth it. Good luck to you. Stay safe and just take each day as it comes. - Steve

  • KarlR
    KarlR, July 21,  2020  5:46pm EST

    One additional clarification, since (collectively) our dietary guidance is all over the map....

    A lot of our personal attitudes towards diet reflect our individual symptoms and problems.  It's pretty clear that I need to get my LDL to rock bottom and keep it there, since I managed to get coronary artery disease with borderline LDL in the first place.  (Family genetics working against me.)  Therefore, my dietary advice is focused on transfats and saturated fats.  I'm also avoiding sodium nitrate just to be safe.  My blood pressure was also borderline, but clearly controlable through meds, so I'm also keeping an eye on my sodium intake.  My HDL, triglycerides, BMI, and waist measurement are all fine ... which affects my decisions about where to focus my dietary changes.  Most specifically, I seem to lack any predisposition towards diabetes (family genetics working in my favor this time) ... so I place no emphasis on dietary advice that's just geared towards blood sugar.

    Other members of this board have very different diagnoses and symptoms.  Their dietary focuses will reflect their specific concerns.

    Don't throw up your hands in despair about dietary guidance because of something that one of us (or all of us collectively) say.  Find out what your own needs are, then figure out the least onerous way to meet those needs.  I was pleasantly surprised about the number of foods I could keep eating with impunity (or was actively encouraged to devour at will).

    When it comes to dietary management, perhaps the most onerous burden is that I have to read the labels.  And ordering takeout (where there aren't even labels to read) becomes a bit of a nightmare.  So far, I'm doing my best and trying to develop a list of restaurants and entrees that seem decent.  Eventually, this will likely all become second nature.

  • AHAASAKatie
    AHAASAKatie, July 22,  2020  9:13am EST

    KarlR , LOVE how you explained the dietary restrictions we all have and how to self manage them. Best Katie  

  • vancet
    vancet, July 22,  2020  7:01pm EST

    Well firstly glad you made it out alive.  Yes those are the very same emotions a lot of us got coming out of the hospital.  Especially when the staff is wondering why it happened to someone who is young and looks healthy.  Anyhow, I find looking back to be not so helpful since interest is lacking in finding out how/why it happened for the hard cases with no risk factors. 

    I'm glad the hospital sat me and my wife  down before we left (along with all the insurance forms) and gave us brochures on heart healthy diet, cardiac rehab and essentially what's next. 

    I had to make drastic changes despite having normal levels of HDL/LDL and normal BP.  I would recommend cardiac rehab to get your body into shape.  Heart healthy eating which means you cut off a lot of red meat,way more salad, lots more fish and chicken, everything low fat, low sodium/potassium, definitely low sugar (start to discover natural sugar substitutes that you can stomach) and cut down on portions.  This was toughest for me but I got used to it after saying no to everything I used to eat for 2 months.  Make sure you schedule your cheat days, it's satisfying to taste the good stuff once in a while.

    As folks have mentioned, take it easy the first couple of weeks and try not to push.  Easy walks daily should be ok if your health care team recommends it. Shortness of breath could be medication related.  I had it quite bad until I switched to a different beta blocker.  Make sure you have a notebook and keep track of aches and pains and shortness of breaths and the time so you can discuss it with your cardiologist.  Also useful to buy (if you don't have it already) a blood pressure cuff, oximeter and a weight scale and track your body changes.  It's quite satisfying to see improvement and useful information to your docs.  

    All the best and keep posting here to let us know of your progress :).  

  • Mb120918
    Mb120918, July 27,  2020  7:40am EST

    Sounds like you are on the hampster wheel that goes along with heart recovery.  It takes time, especially the emotional part.  The advice you got so far from the other members is on point.  The food is tricky and I'm still trying to figure it out.  Stay positive and calm.  Hope you can do rehab soon, that was tremendous in starting to feel better.   Definitely keep a journal or notes (sorry that I didn't),  you can keep track of your improvements  and meds.  My shortness of breath was medication charged but talk to your cardiologist about it.  Feel better and keep us updated.  Stay safe.


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