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Husband won't take care of health after heart attack

Q. My husband recently had a heart attack (7 months ago). The doctor says it was minor and he can go back to most of his normal routine but needs to diet and exercise faithfully. He is not.

I am having a hard time because part of me is so angry at him because it's like he doesn't care if he dies and leaves me and the kids (3 of them all under 11) just so he can eat and watch TV.

Then I feel guilty because, is it really so wrong to want to be happy and maybe I am too hard on him. I don't do everything I'm supposed to do either. Then I'm back to angry again. Please help. Thank you.

A. You are experiencing some very normal feelings and reactions to your situation. A health crisis and brush with mortality is a real wake-up call.

To see your husband not acting on his doctor's advice must be very frustrating. Have you let him know your concerns, in a loving and calm way?

If so, and he cannot or does not acknowledge his lack of health-promoting activities, you may want to call his primary care physician before his next appointment and let him or her know what your concerns are.

There are many possibilities to explain his behavior, including depression, avoidance, or denial. Besides his doctor, a good friend, a relative he respects or clergyperson might be able to get through to him.

The bottom line is, you can't make him do what he should, and communicating with him out of your anger (nagging, etc) isn't likely to help. Your best bet is to focus on managing your own feelings and behavior.

Do what you can to promote a healthy food atmosphere at home, in what you buy at the store and what you prepare for the family.

Take a class or get a couple of cookbooks from the library that are heart-healthy. Limit the junk food; it is a good time for the children to learn healthy habits. Invite your husband to take a walk after dinner, or plan some family walks around the neighborhood or nearby parks.

Even in the winter, these can be fun outings. Focusing on positive behavior changes instead of dwelling on the negative is almost always more successful.

If, despite these changes, you find yourself overwhelmed by anger and guilt, some short-term individual or marriage counseling would be in order. Your primary care physician(s) or OB-GYN would be good referral sources




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Anne Cook Finnegan
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