Life After a Heart Attack
Many people survive heart attacks and live active, full lives. If you get help quickly, treatment can limit damage to your heart muscle. Less heart damage improves your chances for a better quality of life after a heart attack.
After a heart attack, you’ll need treatment for coronary heart disease (CHD). This will help prevent another heart attack. Your doctor may recommend:
- Lifestyle changes, such as following a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking
- Medicines to control chest pain or discomfort, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and your heart’s workload
- A cardiac rehabilitation program
If you find it hard to get your medicines or take them, talk with your doctor. Don’t stop taking medicines that can help you prevent another heart attack.
Returning to Normal Activities
After a heart attack, most people who don’t have chest pain or discomfort or other problems can safely return to most of their normal activities within a few weeks. Most can begin walking right away.
Sexual activity also can begin within a few weeks for most patients. Talk with your doctor about a safe schedule for returning to your normal routine.
If allowed by State law, driving usually can begin within a week for most patients who don’t have chest pain or discomfort or other problems. Each State has rules about driving a motor vehicle following a serious illness. People who have complications shouldn’t drive until their symptoms have been stable for a few weeks.
Anxiety and Depression After a Heart Attack
After a heart attack, many people worry about having another heart attack. Sometimes they feel depressed and have trouble adjusting to new lifestyle changes.
Talk about how you feel with your health care team. Talking to a professional counselor also can help. If you’re very depressed, your doctor may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.
Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to life after a heart attack. You can see how other people who have the same symptoms have coped with them. Talk with your doctor about local support groups or check with an area medical center.
Support from family and friends also can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.
Risk of a Repeat Heart Attack
Once you’ve had a heart attack, you’re at higher risk for another one. Knowing the difference between angina and a heart attack is important. Angina is chest pain that occurs in people who have CHD.
The pain from angina usually occurs after physical exertion and goes away in a few minutes when you rest or take medicine as directed.
The pain from a heart attack usually is more severe than the pain from angina. Heart attack pain doesn’t go away when you rest or take medicine.
If you don’t know whether your chest pain is angina or a heart attack, call 9–1–1.
The symptoms of a second heart attack may not be the same as those of a first heart attack. Don’t take a chance if you’re in doubt. Always call for help right away if you or someone else has heart attack symptoms.
Unfortunately, most heart attack victims wait 2 hours or more after their symptoms start before they seek medical help. This delay can result in lasting heart damage or death.