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Setting recovery goals

Goal setting is a great way to help with your recovery after a heart attack. It will also help you make important lifestyle changes that can ensure your future health and wellbeing.

healthy eating goal setting post-heart attack

Goal setting after your heart attack helps to keep you on track and allows you to celebrate recovery milestones along the way. Once you're feeling better, it's a great tool for ensuring you remain well while living with heart disease.

Goal setting can be applied in a variety of ways. You can set goals relating to exercise, mental health and wellbeing and nutrition.

There are a few common factors that can increase your chance of achieving your goal:

  • Set a goal that is specific to you and write it down
  • Plan how you're going to achieve the goal
  • Get support from those around you
  • Brainstorm how you can overcome challenges and build your confidence.

It's important that you choose goals for your heart attack recovery that are specific to you and your life. Examples of the goals that other people have chosen:

I am going to:

  • be fit enough to get back to full duties at work, otherwise I don’t get paid
  • reduce my blood pressure to 130/80
  • quit smoking for my health and my family's health
  • get fit enough to attend my daughter’s wedding
  • reduce cholesterol through diet and medication.

You may have more success if you focus on just one or two goals at first. Some goals may be easier to achieve than others. But other goals may have a bigger benefit for improving health and reducing your risk of a future event.

For example, quitting smoking may have more benefit than switching from white bread to wholegrain bread - even though both are valid heart health goals. However, it may be much easier to switch to wholegrain bread than it is to quit smoking.

Your GP or cardiac rehabilitation nurse could be a good person to help you decide which goals to tackle first.

It's a good idea to write your goals down and share them with others to help with accountability.

It's important to make a plan for how you will achieve your goal. For example, setting a goal of being able to complete a local 5km walking track. You may not be fit enough to manage this yet, so you will need to plan how to increase your fitness gradually.

Alternatively, you may set yourself a goal to reduce your blood pressure to a certain level. One way you could manage this is by remembering to take your medication.

Try the SMART goal-setting tool to plan your goals. Find out more about this tool on our benefits of exercise page.

Reward yourself for the progress you’ve made. For example, if you achieve the 5km walk you set as a target, maybe you could reward yourself with a trip out or an item you've been really wanting to buy.

Once you've decided on your goal, make a list of all the people who will be able to support you with that goal. For example:

  • If your goal is to switch from butter to an olive oil spread, make sure the person in your family who usually buys the groceries knows which spread to buy
  • If you plan to walk for thirty minutes a day, every day, find a friend or friends who you can exercise with.

If you have a local cardiac club nearby, you may find lots of people who can support you there.

It's also important that you prepare for the roadblocks you may face for achieving your goal. If you've got a plan to overcome any potential hurdles, you're more likely to succeed with your goal.

For example:

You plan to walk outside for half an hour each day. What will you do if there's a tropical storm coming through?Could you exercise at home or go to the local indoor swimming pool?
You're having trouble sticking to your exercise plan because your exercise buddy broke her hip.Could you get support from your local cardiac club or a green prescription?
Your goal is to reduce your blood pressure through weight loss and medication, but you're having trouble remembering to take your pills.Visit our medication page for tips on adherence or talk to someone else with your condition about how they manage their medicines.

It's a great idea to keep a diary to track your progress. If it's an exercise goal that you're focusing on, write down your activity each day. You could also record the healthy eating changes that you've made. Keeping a written record helps to keep you on track and highlights any potential pitfalls or challenges you may be facing. It can reveal other changes you need to make and act as a reminder of the good work you've been doing.

Making lifestyle changes a habit

As well as setting goals, it's also important to make long-term changes to your lifestyle. Heart disease is a lifelong condition, so you want to make sure that any healthy changes you've made to achieve a goal remain part of your lifestyle once that goal has been achieved.

Making changes and sticking to them can be easier said than done, particularly when you're faced with the stresses of work and family commitments and the challenges of daily life. Make sure your changes are something you can do in the long-term. Often it is important to focus on small lifestyle changes rather than drastic life-changing measures.

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Plan your recovery