A heart attack can be a terrifying experience for you and your loved one. Fortunately, recent advances in health care have increased the likelihood of recovery and made it possible to not only survive, but thrive afterwards. However, in order to ensure that your loved one enjoys a full life for years to come, it is important to understand some basic ways in which their care will change. Length of Recovery To begin with, know that the length of their recovery will depend on the severity of their heart attack. Some people may be able to return to their regular activities relatively quickly, while others may require several months of rest. Additional hospital or nursing home care may also be required. In general, elders 65 years and older will take at least eight weeks to recover. Medicine After a heart attack, it is essential for caregivers to become as familiar as possible with the medication their parent or loved one is prescribed. These may include statins, ACE inhibitors and beta blockers, as well as common drugs such as aspirin. Make sure that they are taking them regularly as recommended for them by their doctor. It is also smart to educate yourself as much as possible about their side effects, as well as how they will interact with any other drugs your loved one is taking. Don't hesitate to contact their doctor if you have any questions. Exercise You should also make sure that your loved one is getting a healthy amount of exercise. This will not only help make their heart stronger, but can also give them more energy and even improve their emotional well-being. However, be sure to first consult your loved one's physician to see what a healthy and safe level of exercise is for them. They can even do a "stress test" to see what their limit is. Afterwards, you can provide encouragement by offering to exercise with them, or by inviting a friend of theirs along. Diet Following a healthy diet can also reduce the chances of experiencing another heart attack. Make sure your loved is eating food that is low in salt and saturated fats, and that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats like fish. It can be helpful to search out healthy, low-fat meals that they will want to eat. You can also encourage them to use different spices, such as cilantro or ginger, in order to give their food more flavor (and not use salt). Emotions Finally, it is normal for elders to feel anxiety after experiencing a heart attack. Spending time in a hospital and having to rely on others more can be very stressful. Some may even resent the additional care and resist taking their medicine, exercising and following a healthy diet. Other may become depressed. For these reasons, it is important to keep a close eye on them and reassure your loved one that they will be okay. Make sure to report any severe or prolonged symptoms of depression to their doctor. They may suggest additional medication or lifestyle changes, or even a support group.
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