What Can I Expect after a Heart Attack?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 27 May 2019
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After a heart attack, expect to be strongly encouraged to exercise but to avoid sexual activity for several weeks. Your doctor will probably suggest not returning to work from anywhere to one to three months, depending on the nature of work. Some major lifestyle adjusts might be necessary, such as eating a healthier diet or maintaining a less stressful environment at home and at work.

The first days immediately following a heart attack will usually be spent in bed resting. Normally, this will be in a hospital bed in a medical facility with doctors and nurses on call to advise, assist, and monitor you. Your doctor will most likely go over a healthy eating plan and strongly suggest not smoking. Once you are well enough, the hospital staff will administer a stress test to gauge how well your recovery is coming along and if you can begin exercising lightly every day. Exercise is a very important part of recovery because it helps strengthen the heart muscle, in addition to helping maintain a healthy weight.


Often, a physical therapist on the hospital staff will teach low-stress exercises and help you perform them. He or she will ensure you know what exercises and activities are safe after a heart attack, and which ones should be avoided until the heart is strong enough. For example, sitting in a chair or driving a car is probably safe one week after a heart attack, but physically demanding activities such as gardening, sports, and house cleaning may have to wait another week or more. Heart attack victims are often given a chart detailing what is okay to do now and later, but if such a chart is not available, ask a nurse to write down unacceptable levels of exercise before going home.

Doctors typically recommended that you wait at least three weeks after a heart attack before resuming normal sexual relations. It may be necessary to pace yourself while engaging in sexual activities, and it is generally recommended that you ease back into your normal activities gently. You may be asked to consider adjusting the sexual positions you engage in so that they are as comfortable as possible and do not put you under much strain.

Unlike light exercise and sex, work is generally put off for at least one month after a heart attack. Depending on the severity and how well your recovery is going, the doctor may even recommend not returning to work for about three months. Once having returned to work, some people need to make adjustments to create a lower-stress environment that is more heart-healthy.



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