Resources: Tips for Healthy Aging at Hebrew SeniorLife

How to recover from heart attack

Having a heart attack or a heart procedure can be a frightening experience. The good news is that there is much you can do to manage your heart condition, reduce your risk of a repeat heart attack and improve your chances of living a long, rewarding life.

Likewise, most people who undergo heart surgery recover well and return to their usual activities. Many surgery patients eventually feel healthier than they did before their procedure.

The time it takes to get back to your routine will depend on many factors, including your age and general health. If you have had a heart attack, the pace of recovery will also depend on the severity of the attack. If you have undergone surgery, recovery time will depend partly on the type of procedure you had.

But whatever your situation, there is much you can do to improve your health and prevent complications following a heart attack or major heart procedure.

The first step:  Give yourself permission to recover. You and your body have been through a lot, and it will take some time to feel like yourself again. Expect to feel tired at first, and to gradually regain your strength. While individual needs vary, the following are some overall tips for recovering well from a heart attack or heart surgery.

When you first arrive home from the hospital, you’ll need to get a lot of rest so that your heart can begin to heal. It is very important to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. Take the medications your doctor has prescribed for you.  Avoid heavy work around the house.  Also refrain from physical activity until your doctor gives you permission.  Ask family and friends to help out with chores, shopping and other tasks.

At the same time, it is important to get up and move around as you begin to recover. Your heart is a muscle that needs exercise, though very gently at first. Pace yourself. Allow plenty of time for each thing you do during the day, from getting out of bed to taking a shower to preparing a simple breakfast. Rest between activities and whenever you feel tired.

Ask your doctor for a list of guidelines for activity during your first few weeks at home. Your doctor will want to check your progress after you leave the hospital. During your follow up visit, your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure, make any needed changes in your medicines, perform necessary tests, and check how your recovery is progressing. Use this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about safe or unsafe activities, medicines, lifestyle changes, or any other issues that concern you.

For some situations and questions, it is best to call your doctor right away rather than wait for your next appointment.

Call promptly if:

  • You have symptoms related to your original heart disease, such as trouble breathing, chest pain, weakness, or an irregular heartbeat.
  • You notice side effects after starting a new heart medicine.
  • You’ve been given a prescription for a condition other than heart disease. It is important to find out whether it’s safe to take other medicines along with your heart drugs.
  • You’ve recently had heart surgery or another kind of medical treatment and you notice symptoms that your doctor has warned you about.
  • You feel down or “have the blues” for more than a few days.

If you have symptoms of a possible heart attack, call 911 right away.

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