There are close to 1,000 cardiac arrests outside of the hospital every day in the United States. About 900 of them are fatal.
Once you’ve survived, you know how lucky you are. But you often don’t feel lucky.
Instead, many of the 35,000 people who survive cardiac arrest every year live in fear. Understandably they’re terrified it could happen again, at any moment.
And maybe next time, they won’t be so lucky.
That’s why so many survivors battle stress, anxiety, and depression. Survivors of heart attacks and strokes are often in the same boat.
But new research reveals some steps you can take that can help lift the burden. And when you do, you can get back to enjoying your life and the things you love.
In other words, you can LIVE again… in EVERY sense.
Life after cardiac arrest
Surviving a major heart scare like a cardiac arrest usually means you’re stuck taking a fistful of pills afterward. They’ll put you on drugs you never even knew existed.
It can feel like your life is being run by the pillbox. So the last thing in the world you want is yet another capsule to swallow. That’s why the latest research on thriving after a cardiac arrest is so exciting. Because it doesn’t focus on a pill of any kind.
Instead, it’s an “action.” But as you’ll see in a moment, even that may be overstating it. Because in many cases, this “action” involves little to no actual activity.
It can be as simple as sparing a moment to take a nice deep breath, then relaxing for a few minutes. Because the study finds those quiet moments can help you overcome some of the worst mood issues that often follow a cardiac arrest.
They call it “mindfulness.” But don’t be distracted by the jargon. You don’t need to light incense or chant a mantra to get these powerful benefits. (But go right ahead if you wish. I won’t judge. You do you.)
It’s much simpler than that.
How “MINDFUL” moments can save your MOOD
Instead of “mindfulness,” think of it simply as relaxation… but with a touch of awareness. In other words, you don’t want to zone out completely.
Maybe try a walk where you pay attention to the sights, sounds, and smells. Perhaps do a little train-, plane-, or bird-spotting, if you like that kind of thing. Even eating but savoring every bite and sip and trying to identify the individual flavors counts.
If you ask me, those sound like activities we could ALL enjoy no matter what you call them. But if you’ve survived cardiac arrest (or perhaps a heart attack or stroke), this goes beyond mere enjoyment.
Because the new study finds those types of mindful moments could help you avoid the darker ones that can follow a big heart scare.
In the years after cardiac arrest, patients in the new study who engaged in more of those simple acts of mindfulness had a significantly lower risk of developing the psychological distress that often follows, including:
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
In other words, focused relaxation is some pretty powerful “medicine.”
And it’s not the first time we’ve seen these kinds of benefits, either. In an earlier study, patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation for heart failure, cardiac surgery, and other major cardiovascular events had a similar experience.
Their mindfulness practice led to lower depression and anxiety levels, a higher quality of life, and improved cardiovascular risk factors.
Benefits extend beyond cardiac arrest recovery
For the new study, there were no special programs participants were asked to follow. None of the cardiac arrest survivors were assigned to meditate, do yoga, or any other specific mindfulness practice.
But once again, if any of those are things you enjoy, go ahead and give them a whirl. In this case, the volunteers were just folks who had committed to becoming more mindful… more aware… and more relaxed for at least a little chunk of time every single day.
And keep in mind mindfulness can take a little practice. So don’t get frustrated if you find your thoughts wandering or the worry slipping back in.
Think of it as a muscle you’re building. If you need a little help with your “workout,” you can download a mindfulness app to your smartphone to help guide you until you get the hang of focused relaxation.
Since studies show this same approach can help control blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors, don’t wait for an emergency to try something like this out yourself. Even if you’ve never experienced a cardiac arrest, heart attack, or stroke, mindfulness is a habit worth adopting.
Need a little inspiration? My earlier report Weird belly breathing trick gives you a teenage brain includes a simple breathing technique that’s perfect for your new mindfulness practice.
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