Changing your lifestyle to reduce your risk

Changing your lifestyle to reduce your risk

Your doctor or nurse should talk to you about the lifestyle changes that you and your family can make to help reduce your risk of having another heart attack.

Diet

Healthy eating is an important factor in helping to reduce your risk. You should be offered an individual consultation to discuss your diet, which should include talking about your current eating habits and how to improve your diet. You should be given healthy eating advice that is tailored to your needs but can also be extended to your whole family.

This will involve following a Mediterranean-style diet, with more bread, fruit, vegetables and fish, and less meat, as well as choosing products made from vegetable oils (such as olive oil) instead of products such as butter and cheese. Oily fish (such as herring, sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna) can form part of a Mediterranean-style diet, but there is no need to eat this type of fish specifically to try to prevent another heart attack.

Omega-3 fatty acid capsules or omega-3 fatty acid supplemented foods have not been found to help prevent another heart attack, so you should not be advised to take them just to reduce your risk.

You should be advised not to take beta-carotene (a type of vitamin A) supplements, vitamin C or E, or folic acid to reduce the risk of having another heart attack.

Alcohol

If you drink alcohol, you should receive advice about staying within safe limits and not binge drinking, which is drinking more than 3 alcoholic drinks in 1–2 hours. Men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol a week, and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. A pint of normal-strength beer is about 2 units and a small (125 ml) glass of wine is about 1.5 units.

Regular exercise

Regular exercise can help your heart. You should receive advice about how you might benefit from increasing your activity levels, and how to do this gradually. This will depend on how well you have recovered, how active you are now, how active you used to be and what type of exercise you prefer.

You should aim to exercise for 20–30 minutes a day. Whatever exercise you choose should be enough to make you slightly breathless. Some people may need to increase their activity gradually.

Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of having another heart attack. If you smoke, you can get advice and support to help you stop. There are treatments available on the NHS for people who want to give up smoking.

Weight

If you are overweight, you are putting an extra strain on your heart. Your healthcare professional can give you advice and support about reaching and maintaining your ideal weight. See Other NICE guidance for details of our guidance on obesity.

Questions to ask about lifestyle changes

  • What information and support is available to help me make changes to my lifestyle?

  • Is there anything that might increase the risk of having another heart attack?

  • Are there types of exercise that might help me more than others, or be less help?

  • Where can I get advice and support about giving up smoking?

  • Are there any support groups in my local area?

  • What could happen if I don't change my lifestyle?

  • Information Standard