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Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle means the way we live. We all have different habits as part of our lifestyle. Some of these are healthy lifestyle habits and some are not. For example: a healthy lifestyle habit is eating at least 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetable every day. An unhealthy habit is smoking (of any kind).

When you have had a heart attack or heart event, it is important to be aware about lifestyle changes you can make to help you recover and get well, as well as stay well and healthy for your future.   

Worldwide, for many years, there have been studies and research into what healthy lifestyle choices can help people who have had a heart attack reduce their risk of another heart attack and stay healthy.

Healthy Lifestyle changes are as important as taking your medication. View more information from the NZ Heart Foundation

Proven Heart Healthy lifestyle choices are:

Eating is a big part of our lives. We have to eat to sustain and maintain our body. Eating is also an important part of being social and connecting with family and friends. Therefore, the current focus is being aware of healthy food options and eating healthy for overall health and well-being. These are a few suggestions:

  • We do not advise a specific diet as it is best to eat a variety of different foods with all the food groups.
  • Eat at least 5-7 portions of fruit and vegetable a day. Raw, frozen or cooked fruit and vegies provide lots of healthy nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fibre which are essential for our bodies to work well.
  • Limit how much red meat you eat and do not eat the visible fat on the meat. The meat fat has the “bad” saturated fat in it. This saturated fat contributes to cholesterol building up in your heart arteries.
  • Be mindful about how much you eat at meals (smaller portion sizes).

View more information from the NZ Heart Foundation

Health Eating resources:

The best health benefits are achieved with regular physical activity – about 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. However, any kind of physical activity is better than none and if you can only manage 10 minutes a day, that is still beneficial.

Initially when you get home after being discharged from hospital, you should start slowly with physical activity and progressively increase your exercise tolerance.

There are ways to add physical activity into your everyday life. Such as parking further away from your work or the shops and walking, and using the stairs rather than the lift. These may seem like small activities that won’t make a difference, but if you do them regularly you will notice that they do.        

It is important that you enjoy being active, so find an activity that that you enjoy!

Being physically active is also good for your mental health and well-being as it helps increase the “feel-good” hormones in our body. 

Many people have questions about sex after a heart attack as they are worried about putting stress on the heart or even having another heart attack during sex. Sex is similar to exercise in that it is good for your heart.

View more information from the NZ Heart Foundation.

For more information and advice on exercise:

Smoking of any kind is harmful for heart health and overall health. This includes cigarette smoking and smoking marijuana.

The ingredients in smoking products cause blood vessels to become stiff and makes blood clot easier. These effects can increase your risk of having a heart attack. These effects can also prevent your heart medicines from working well to help your heart.

There is recent evidence and studies showing that Vaping also has adverse health risks. 

Reducing how much you smoke with the aim of quitting all together is the best thing you can do for your health.

There is help and support for you to do this. Talk to your doctor, nurse family and friends or call Quitline on 0800 778 778.


For information and advice on stopping smoking: 

Medication for Coronary Artery Disease

Medications are a very important part of your recovery and treatment. You will need to take different  types of medications because each medicine works differently.  Using them together gives the best effect.   Most of your medications will have to be taken  long term.  These medicines will help to:

  • Lower your blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Reduce blood clotting
  • Support damaged heart muscle
  • Help prevent a further heart attack


It is important that you:

  • Take your medicines as prescribed
  • Do not stop taking your medications, you may be at risk of a heart attack if you do
  • If you think you are having side effects from one of your medications please discuss with your doctor
  • Talk to your pharmacist, doctor or nurse before you take any other medicines including herbal, traditional or natural remedies
  • You will need to visit your doctor to get repeat prescriptions before you run out.
  • Medications cannot work on their own. It is impotant to be pro active about healhty lifestyle changes as well – Lifestyle Medicine.  

There are “free dispensing” pharmacies available across the Waitemata DHB catchment area.  Speak to your GP about this.

  • Take it as soon as possible
  • Do not take double doses at the same time
  • If it is almost time for your next dose, don’t take the dose you missed.  Wait and take your next dose at your normal time

There are some medications that you need to avoid as they can damage your kidneys and increased the chance of a heart attack.

For example:  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.   Voltaren, Celebrex, Nurofen, Ibrufen, Advil, Arcoxia

Coping After a Heart Attack

Is it normal to feel worried and distressed after my heart event? 

There is no right or wrong feeling after a heart event. Every experience is unique.   These are some of the common feelings people may experience following their heart event.   

Shocked…   Angry…   Irritable…   Sad…   Relieved…   Grateful…   Lucky… Worried…  Frightened…   Loss of control…   Down… Guilty…     Cared for…   Loved…   Motivated…   Over-protected… Restless…  Blue…  Numb…  On edge…  Helpless…      Hopeful

Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them but we can choose which ones we surf...

Please speak with your GP or get in touch with one of the Cardiac Rehabilitation nurses.

There is a community support group called “Heartbeats”. This is organised by a Trent Lash, an ex patient who had a heart attack and recognised the need for this group.

“Heartbeats”  is  NOT a psychological counselling service, an exercise-based rehabilitation group, or a social club.

To learn more please contact Trent Lash

Mobile:       0220 606 199