SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Understanding your heart condition and making healthy lifestyle changes can help you look after your heart.
- Cardiac rehabilitation clinics are offered widely across Australia and can help you to adjust to life with coronary heart disease.
- Taking medicines as prescribed can help protect the heart and lower the risk of a future heart condition, including a heart attack, surgery or procedure.
- Following a heart-healthy eating pattern, drinking less alcohol, moving more and quitting smoking are all important parts of living well with a heart condition.
- If you’re feeling lonely, isolated, worried, or depressed after being diagnosed with a heart condition, talk to your doctor and reach out to friends and family.
On this page
Understanding your condition and making healthy lifestyle changes can improve your heart health. Keeping your heart healthy lowers your chances of having heart problems in the future.
Participate in cardiac rehabilitation
Cardiac rehabilitation (or cardiac rehab) is a program of support, exercise and education that is led by health professionals to strengthen your heart.
Cardiac rehab gives you information, support and advice to help you recover after a heart attack, surgery or procedure. If you have had a heart attack, attending cardiac rehab can reduce the risk of having another heart attack. People who have been diagnosed with a heart condition, like heart failure, can also benefit from cardiac rehab. You will learn more about long-term lifestyle changes to help you live well with your heart condition.
Speak to your doctor to find out more about a local cardiac rehab program tailored to your needs. You can also visit the Heart Foundation’s Cardiac Services Directory to search for your closest cardiac rehab program.
Cardiac rehab is recommended for people who have had:
- coronary heart disease, such as heart attack or angina or heart failure
- a heart procedure or surgery, such as coronary artery bypass graft surgery, coronary angioplasty and/or stenting, or valve replacement
- a device insertion, such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator
- heart failure
- abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation
- a cardiac arrest.
Through a cardiac rehab program, you will be supported to:
- return to your activities that you enjoy
- improve your physical activity and fitness levels
- manage your medicines
- manage other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes
- recognise the warning signs of a heart attack and what to do in an emergency
- make healthy lifestyle choices, such as following a heart-heathy eating pattern, drinking less alcohol, being physically active and quitting smoking
- manage stress, anxiety and depression
- return to driving, returning to work and going on holidays.
Taking your medicines
Most people who have had a heart attack or have been diagnosed with a heart condition will be prescribed medicines to protect their heart and lower the risk of future heart problems.
It’s important to know which heart medicines you are taking, what they are for and the possible side effects to look out for. For more information about your heart medicines, speak to your doctor or pharmacist.
- Always take your medicines as prescribed by your doctor, even if you feel well.
- Speak to your doctor or pharmacist before you stop taking your medicines or change the dose.
- Check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any over-the -counter medicines (e.g. cold and flu medicines, pain medicines, supplements) as they can interact with heart medicines.
Make lifestyle changes for a healthier heart
A heart-healthy lifestyle has significant benefits for your physical and mental wellbeing. It can help you to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Following a heart-healthy eating pattern, drinking less alcohol, moving more and quitting smoking are all important parts of living well with a heart condition.
Follow a heart-healthy eating pattern
The Heart Foundation recommends following a heart-healthy eating pattern that doesn’t focus on one type of food or nutrient, but rather on what you eat over days, weeks and months.
A heart-healthy eating pattern includes:
- plenty of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains
- a variety of healthy protein-rich foods especially fish and seafood, legumes (such as beans and lentils), nuts and seeds.
Eggs and poultry can also be enjoyed as part a heart-healthy eating pattern. If you eat red meat, choose lean cuts and limit to one to three times per week
- unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. People with high cholesterol or heart disease should choose reduced fat varieties
- healthy fats and oils. Choose nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oils for cooking
- herbs and spices to flavour foods, instead of adding salt.
This way of eating is naturally low in unhealthy fats, salt and added sugar. It’s rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and healthy fats.
Check out the Heart Foundation website for a range of resources to help you follow a heart-healthy eating pattern.
For dietary, you can also speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
Drink less alcohol
Alcohol is not a necessary or recommended part of a heart-healthy eating pattern. If you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start.
If you do drink alcohol, the Heart Foundation recommends following the National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) recommended levels of alcohol consumption:
- Healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than four standard drinks on any one day.
- Children and young people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
- To reduce the risk of harm to their unborn child, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.
- For people with heart disease and related conditions or risk factors, the evidence is not strong enough to recommend a safe amount of alcohol consumption for heart health.
- For some people, the safest option is to not drink alcohol at all.
Speak to your doctor for advice and support to cut down on alcohol.
Healthy physical activities
Talk to your doctor or cardiac rehab team about how to build physical activity into your life if you have a heart condition or recently had after a heart attack or surgery attack.
Getting involved with a Heart Foundation Walking group is a fun and social way to be active. You can also register for a free Personal Walking Plan that can help you be more active, healthier and happier in just six weeks! Visit Heart Foundation Walking for more information.
Tobacco smoking is a major cause of heart and blood vessel disease. If you’re recovering from a heart attack, quitting smoking can reduce your risk of another heart attack. Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is important for a healthy life and to reduce your risk of a heart event.
Exposure to second-hand smoke (passive smoking) is a serious health hazard for both people who smoke and non-smokers. Quitting smoking and limiting exposure to second-hand smoke can protect yourself and your loved ones from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
The most effective way to stop smoking is with a combination of support from Quitline (Tel. 13 78 48) and stop-smoking medicines such as nicotine replacement therapy.
If you are ready to quit smoking or thinking about quitting smoking, talk to your doctor about ways to help youstop.. You can also call the Quitline on Tel. 13 78 48.
Look after your mental health
If you have been diagnosed with a heart condition or recently had a heart attack, it’s normal to feel sad, angry, anxious, lonely or confused. These feelings are usually short-term and will improve with time as you adjust to living with a heart condition.
It’s important to know you’re not alone and that there are many resources available to support you in looking after your emotional and mental wellbeing.
If you are worried about your thoughts or how you are feeling, tell someone and seek help. This could be your doctor, another health professional, family member or a friend.
You can also get more information and support from Beyond Blue.
Where to get help
- Your GP (doctor)
- In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
- Emergency department of your nearest hospital
- NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
- Heart Foundation
- Quitline Tel. 13 78 48
- Beyond Blue. Tel. 1300 22 4636
- NPS MedicineWise Medicines Line Tel. 1300 633 424 or Medicine Finder
- Dietitians Australia Tel. 1800 812 942 or find a dietitian
- Australian Centre for Heart Health Tel. 03 9326 8544