Getting on With Life after a Heart Attack or Unstable Angina

When living with heart attack and unstable angina, there are some things you can do to manage your condition1,2


Diet considerations

  • Diet should be healthy and balanced. It’s important to include at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day; to consume milk and dairy products; to eat bread, pasta, rice and potatoes for starch; meat, fish, eggs, beans for protein and only small quantities of foods and drinks high in fats and sugar3
  • If your diet is high in saturated fat, it can worsen atherosclerosis (fatty build up in the arteries) causing more fatty plaques to build up in your arteries and, thus, increase the chances of developing angina and having a heart attack1
  • Dietary fat contains good and bad cholesterol: bad cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), which can cause blockages in your arteries, and good cholesterol known as high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), which can help to decrease arterial blockages. Cholesterol levels in your blood vary in relation to the type of fat being eaten, for example, high saturated fats increase LDL-C and unsaturated fats increase HDL-C. Highly saturated fatty foods include: butter, sausages, hard cheese, cakes, fatty cuts of meat and lard. Unsaturated fatty foods include: oily fish, avocados and olive oil1
  • Salt and sugar intake should also be monitored. High salt diets can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and resultant ACS. In addition, too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain and perhaps obesity, which can increase the likelihood of developing unstable angina or having a heart attack3,4


Lifestyle considerations

  • Weight: When you are overweight the heart is put under unnecessary pressure as it must work harder to pump blood/oxygen around the body to the vital organs. Losing weight can help to reduce this stress on the heart. Exercise and being generally active, e.g. walking, swimming and cycling, can help you lose weight. Doing exercise keeps your heart and vessels healthy, helping to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of unstable angina and heart attack11
  • Smoking: Smoking can directly lead to an increase in blood pressure; cut down on the number of cigarettes if you do smoke or try giving up all together1,2
  • Sex: It is recommended that sex is avoided for a few weeks after you experience a heart attack; if you experience any angina chest pains inform your doctor. Men may experience erectile dysfunction, possibly as a side effect of a beta-blocker or a symptom related to emotional stress. Your doctor can guide you on what may be the problem and advise on an appropriate way forward5


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