If You've Experienced Heart Failure or a Stroke, Know That Getting Back On Track is Possible with Lifestyle Changes and Treatment
Congestive heart failure isn't a young person's game — or is it? We tend to think of it as a concern for older people, but sometimes, things don't happen in the succession we expect.
If you're young and have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure, here's some comforting news. Recovery is possible. For one thing, there's some great technology available to help you. Minimally invasive technologies such as pacemakers and implantable cardiac defibrillators, for instance, keep your heart working the way it's supposed to. Pulmonary artery pressure monitoring systems monitor your heart to detect heart failure symptoms before you even feel them. You can also try cardiac resynchronization therapy, which keeps your heart beating in a regular pattern.
This technology might seem overwhelming, but don't be intimidated — these are critical tools that can help you get back to your regular life.
While pacemakers and pulmonary pressure monitoring systems are great tools, but they're complements to heart-healthy living. The best path to regaining your heart health is by creating an action plan to lead a healthier, less stressful life. Below, we offer five concrete, practical steps that you can take to improve your heart's health after congestive heart failure.
1. Improve Your Diet
One of the easiest ways to make your diet more heart-healthy is to replace the beverages you drink with water. By eliminating soda, juices and sports drinks, you'll not only cut out empty calories; you'll reduce your sugar intake, too. The National Health Portal has linked excess sugar intake with heart disease and diabetes. Adopting a healthier diet can also reduce your risk of having another heart attack or stroke. And while you're shelving the sugary drinks, make sure you curb your intake of salty and fatty foods, too.
Healthy eating should also extend to snacking. So rather than reaching for chocolate or chips, snack on raw nuts, hummus, pulses or fruit — such as apples or pomegranates — instead.
Above all, make sure that your diet consists of a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. Make going to the grocery store a fun experience by taking a friend along and buying new healthy food items to taste-test.
2. Find an Exercise You Enjoy
If you're forcing yourself to do an exercise you hate, you won't make it a long-term habit.
Working out is essential to heart health, especially when you're recovering from a heart failure. If you'd rather be outdoors, ditch the gym and find a hiking or running path near your home or work. Think of ways to get outdoors during your lunch hour, like taking a brisk walk to that healthy restaurant down the road. And make sure to take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
Yoga is a great exercise to take up after congestive heart failure. There are many different levels you can try based on your skill level. Restorative yoga, for instance, is a more gentle approach, where the use of pillows and blankets is encouraged. This specific kind of yoga has been shown to help kickstart your body's recovery mechanisms. Participating in any form of yoga can help improve your blood flow and cholesterol levels.
Before starting any new exercise routine, talk to your doctor to make sure you're choosing an activity and intensity level that are best for your health.
3. Learn Your Family History
Gather some details about the health of your family members. Ask your siblings, parents and grandparents about their health conditions. Find out if any of your relatives had heart disease or some genetic condition that could have been passed down between generations.
Once you have this information, go over it in detail with your doctor. They can help you understand the symptoms to look for and the tests you might need to have. Arming yourself with a solid health plan means that a family history of heart disease and stroke doesn't have to stop you in your tracks.
4. Reduce Stress
Minimizing stress is critical to keeping your blood pressure down and your heart healthy. Meditation is a great way to de-stress. Start your day off by meditating, or practice it later on for a calming midday break. Focus on your breathing, and gently push away thoughts about work. Don't focus on having a blank mind. Instead, consider how your body feels in the moment.
You can also diminish stress by changing up your commute. While you might not be able to avoid that hourlong drive to work, you could make it more peaceful. If the news stresses you out, switch to a podcast or an audiobook. While walking or relaxing at home, take time to call a friend or family member you want to catch up with.
5. Get Better Sleep
Proper sleep is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of heart health. You might eat right and stay active and avoid emotional stress, but if your body doesn't get adequate rest, none of it will work.
According to the National Health Portal, factors such as an urban lifestyle, pressure at work and long commutes can contribute to inadequate sleep. Getting good sleep isn't just important for your energy levels; it's critical for your heart health. Inadequate sleep slows your metabolism, which can cause you to gain weight, and it can spike your blood pressure, which puts stress on your heart. Adults who get less than seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to have severe chronic health conditions, including heart attacks, strokes and coronary heart disease.
While every person has different sleep needs, most of us need seven to eight hours every night. But quality sleep is key. So if you're having trouble sleeping, try cutting down on your caffeine intake, or at least stop by midday. Create a soothing slow-down to your day as you approach bedtime and turn it into a nightly routine, like shutting off your electronic devices and curling up with a good book.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.