It’s normal to be scared and overwhelmed after having a heart attack. And you probably have a lot of questions about how you can get back to doing the things you love. Follow these dos and don’ts to stay safe and healthy during recovery and beyond.
Should you exercise? Do you really need to do cardiac rehab? Find out what steps to take after an attack.
Do Stay Active
After a heart attack, you might worry that being physically active will bring about another attack. But exercise is an important part of recovery, and it’s key to leading a heart healthy lifestyle — which is more important now than ever before. Talk to your doctor about what level of activity is right for your situation.
Do Tell Your Doctor If You’re Having Chest Pain
Unfortunately, having a heart attack puts you at risk for having another one. While slight chest discomfort that goes away quickly is somewhat normal, you’ll want to talk to your doctor if you’re having any pain or pressure.
The symptoms of a second heart attack can be different from the first, so be sure to track your symptoms and communicate with your physician about changes and concerns. Shortness of breath, pain in the upper body (like your arms, back, neck or jaw), nausea and fatigue can all be indicators of an issue with your heart.
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Do Expect Changes
Many people go back to work, return to driving and resume the hobbies they enjoy. However, it’s important to remember that the road back to normalcy will be a winding one that takes time. As you and your healthcare team plan for your future heart health, you may need to make some changes to your diet, exercise routine, stress levels and more. Try to have patience — the important thing is that you stay healthy.
Don’t Skip Out on Rehab
One of the most important steps you can take in your recovery is to participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program. During this time, a team of specialists, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists and more, will help you navigate the reality of life after a heart attack. You’ll learn how to stay physically active (and safe), what to eat (and what to stay away from) and what lifestyle modifications you need to consider making.
Don’t Ignore Your Feelings
It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions after a heart attack. You might feel scared, sad, depressed, angry, anxious or all of the above. Don’t bottle up your feelings or assume they’ll go away on their own.
Consider joining a support group so you can see how others have dealt with being in a similar situation. Also let your doctor know how you’re feeling so you can get help on your road to recovery.