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Recovering from a Heart Attack
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Recovering From a Heart Attack
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Studies have led to better therapies and more information about the heart after a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). Most patients stay in the hospital for about a week or less.

Upon returning home, you will need rest and relaxation. A return to all of your normal activities, including work, may take a few weeks to 2 or 3 months, depending on your condition.

A full recovery is defined as a return to normal activities. This will depend on how active you were before your heart attack, the severity of the attack, and your body's response to it. You will recover quicker if you avoid stress, temperature extremes, and conditions that place an added load on your heart.

Some form of exercise is also important. You should slowly increase your level of physical activity as advised by your doctor. Many hospitals and clinics offer cardiac rehabilitation programs that include exercise programs, ways to reduce and cope with stress, and information about diet, sexual activity, the need for additional treatment, and other issues.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs also give you a chance to talk with other patients and share your concerns, problems, and feelings. Many patients who have been through such programs volunteer as instructors for new patients, which can give you more insight and reassurance.

Some studies have shown that patients who have recently had a heart attack are at greater risk of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Because of this link, your doctor may recommend that you undergo some screening tests for OSA.

Mediterranean-style Diet

A study has found that a Mediterranean-style diet high in olive oil and other healthy unsaturated fats is just as good as the American Heart Association’s low-fat diet for heart attack patients who want to prevent another heart attack from happening. Heart attack patients on either diet had one-third the risk of having another heart attack, a stroke, of dying, or of developing another heart problem than did patients who did not follow the diets.

The American Heart Association’s diet allows 30% of your daily calorie intake to come from fat. A Mediterranean-style diet may allow for up to 40% of your daily calorie intake to come from fat, but that extra 10% must come from healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, and fish.

Although the results of this study are promising, you must remember to talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet and to make sure a Mediterranean-style diet is the right diet for you.

For more information, visit   
 American Heart Association  

Heart attack survivors have to take a long, hard look at their lifestyles and make decisions that will affect their future health. Heart attack survivors who smoke need to quit right away. Other areas of change will include making changes to your diet and beginning an exercise program that has been approved by your doctor. Some patients may need to look at their jobs and responsibilities or think about their approaches to careers and work. A return to old habits can lead directly down the road to another, maybe deadly, heart attack.

A person who survives a heart attack remains at risk for future heart problems. At the very least, the patient still has the narrowed artery that led to the heart attack. Bypass surgery, percutaneous coronary interventions, or medicines may be needed to reduce the risk of another heart attack.

Whatever your course of action after a heart attack, your future health depends greatly on following the advice of health care professionals, including changing your lifestyle and taking medicines as directed.

Coming to Grips With Your Feelings

A heart attack can leave you with strong feelings about what has happened to you. Denial, anger, fear, anxiety, and depression are common emotions among people who have had heart attacks. These are normal reactions, and you should talk about these feelings with your doctor.

Feelings of depression may last for up to 6 months. Common signs of depression include sleep problems, not feeling hungry, feeling very tired, not caring about things that used to be important to you, and having a low self-esteem. Some patients may need professional help or medicine for depression.

Your family, friends, and coworkers will be affected by your heart attack as well. They will have concerns about your future and questions about your condition. Lifestyle changes, and even something as simple as a new diet, may cause stress within your family.

A positive attitude toward recovery and treatment can help a lot as you struggle to deal with your feelings. Your physical recovery is not the only recovery that can begin in the hospital. Emotional and mental recovery can begin there as well. When you are ready, your doctor can talk to you about what has happened, why it has happened, and what your treatment options are. Understanding and accepting your condition are the first steps toward a good mental outlook. Supportive friends and family are also very important.

The negative feelings you have after a heart attack will pass as you recover and slowly return to your normal activities.

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Heart Attack

Updated October 2013
Texas Heart Institute Heart Information Center
Through this community outreach program, staff members of the Texas Heart Institute (THI) provide educational information related to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cardiovascular disease. It is not the intention of THI to provide specific medical advice, but rather to provide users with information to better understand their health and their diagnosed disorders. Specific medical advice will not be provided and THI urges you to visit a qualified physician for diagnosis and for answers to your questions.
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