What to Expect When You're in Heart Attack Recovery

Healthy Heart|Jan.08, 2020

Knowing what to expect from your recovery can help get you back to feeling your best.

So, you've had a heart attack, but here's the good news: your heart is capable of healing and recovering, and with proper care, you'll soon be able to do most of the things you used to do. But while the most difficult part of a heart attack might be behind you, leaving the hospital is just the beginning of your heart attack recovery. Recovery from a heart attack is mostly about paying your heart a little more attention - Think long term impact of things. Consider how things like following your medication and rehabilitation plans, making lifestyle changes and getting regular exercise after heart attack hospitalisation will help your heart recuperate.

Your heart attack recovery plan will explain, among other things, how to watch for symptoms, monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol, and follow a heart-healthy diet. It will also provide guidance on lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, starting a new exercise routine and managing stress.

Depending on the severity of your heart attack, it could take as long as three months until you're able to return to your normal life, according to the American Heart Association. Here's what you can expect during your recovery process.

The First Two Weeks

You might feel weak when you first get home from the hospital, so be sure to get plenty of rest. It might be a good idea to ask a family member or friend to look after you for a couple of weeks.

Don't immediately jump back into your normal routine, but try to follow it as closely as possible. Wake up as usual, take a shower, get dressed and continue light activities, such as reading, watching TV, making tea, setting the table and cooking. Be mindful of your exercise — walk only for short periods, climb stairs slowly and be sure to rest for a couple of hours throughout the day.

Most importantly, follow your doctor's instructions for care. If your doctor has prescribed a cardiac rehabilitation program, follow it. Be sure to show up for any follow-up appointments.

Be careful to also avoid:

  • Strenuous activities or activities that could cause shortness of breath, such as gardening, sports, making the bed, lifting heavy objects, vacuuming, standing for too long
  • Stress and temperature extremes, according to the Mayo Clinic
  • Driving or operating any heavy machinery

Weeks Three to Eight

By week three, you can increase your walk to 15 minutes, twice a day, on level ground. You can cook, carry light objects and do light gardening. Continue to rest for a couple of hours during the day and avoid active sports or other strenuous activities that could strain your heart. For week four, increase your walking time to 30 minutes at a gentle pace.

If you don't feel any chest pain and walking is comfortable, consult your doctor about starting an exercise routine. Be alert for any signs of discomfort or breathlessness as you build up your physical activity steadily.

It is natural to feel tired and to feel fear, anxiety and depression when resuming your regular routine, according to Fortis Healthcare. Discussing these feelings with a family member or friend can help, and cardiac rehabilitation programs can be effective in preventing or treating depression after a heart attack. If you feel depressed about various lifestyle changes, discuss your treatment options with your doctor to ensure that you to make a full heart attack recovery.

Exercise After Heart Attack

Staying active daily after a heart attack with at least 30 minutes of regular physical activity at least three times a week is vital during heart attack recovery, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but staying active seven days a week is optimal. Ease into cardiovascular exercise; walking, biking, swimming and yoga are good post-heart attack exercises, the Cleveland Clinic says. Research from the Egyptian Heart Journal indicates that exercise helps minimise the chances of coronary artery disease, reduces stress and keeps blood pressure and cholesterol under control. It also helps weight management, promoting long-term heart health.

Returning to Normal

Most people go back to work in about four to six weeks, depending on the severity of the heart attack. Your doctor will give you the go-ahead based on your progress and the kind of work you do. Take it easy initially, as you might tire quickly.

If you work from home, don't give in to the temptation to start work before you should. If you underwent bypass surgery, your recovery period might be longer. If you work a desk job, you might be able to return to work sooner than if your job is physically strenuous. In either case, you should feel both physically and emotionally ready before you return to work.

If you're planning to travel, wait at least six weeks or until your doctor clears you. The same goes for driving: Wait for permission. Be sure to never drive alone, stick to familiar routes and always carry identification.

A heart attack can be a traumatic event and can take a mental and emotional toll on top of the physical one. Recovery is a process and it's important not to demand too much from yourself too soon. Take it slow and listen to what your body and mind need, and you'll be able to return to work and resume activities that you enjoy.


Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.