What to Do After a Heart Attack

Here are 4 important steps you can take on the path to recovery following a cardiac event.

When you have a heart attack, your recovery doesn’t end once you leave the hospital. In fact, what you do after you get home can make a big difference in how well you recover and may reduce your chance of having another cardiac event in the future.

Here are 4 tips for improving your health following a heart attack:

  • Identify what caused your heart attack. Knowing what contributed to your cardiac event — uncontrolled high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, etc. — will help you better understand what you can do to prevent it from happening again. This knowledge will also explain why certain medications are being prescribed for you. 
  • Attend a cardiac rehab program. Many doctors recommend that patients follow a cardiac rehabilitation program after they have a heart attack. Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program, individualized for each person, that consists of exercise training, as well as education and counseling about heart-healthy living. The program is similar to physical therapy but is more comprehensive in nature and it is designed to help patients recover more quickly. It may also help reduce the risk of a future cardiac event by slowing, stabilizing or reversing the progression of cardiovascular disease.
  • Slowly increase physical activity. Rest is important after a heart attack but it’s just as important to begin increasing the amount of physical activity you do. If you are going to cardiac rehab, you’ll already be adding some activity to your day. You should also keep up with doctor-approved exercises, such as walking, and gradually increase the amount of activity you do as you feel able to do so.
  • Make other healthy lifestyle changes. In addition to increasing your physical activity, adopting healthier lifestyle habits can help you fully recover and improve your heart health. These include not smoking, eating healthy foods, losing weight if you are overweight, sleeping well, reducing stress, limiting alcohol and taking medications as prescribed.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 18, 2019

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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