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Life After Treatment For Heart Attack

Benjamin McDonald, MD, edited by Ann Witt, MD

As noted previously, heart attacks and heart disease in general are caused by multiple factors, some under your control and some that are not. A wise goal to pursue after sustaining a heart attack is to make changes to your lifestyle that will help keep your cardiovascular system healthy and lessen your chances of having a repeat heart attack. Your doctor, with the aid of a cardiac rehabilitation specialist, can help you to formulate and get started on a healthy lifestyle plan which may involve healthy eating habits, taking medications appropriately, getting moderate regular exercise, smoking cessation (if applicable) and learning and practicing stress reduction techniques. Typically, you will be placed on aspirin therapy and other medications that can help decrease the chance of having another heart attack. You and your physician will also work on reducing risk factors such as controlling your cholesterol and diabetes.

There is no universal answer as to when a heart attack patient can resume regular activities of daily life such as returning to work, driving, and engaging in any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise. As a general guideline, however, an individual receiving proper care and who actually commits to, performs and adheres to recommended lifestyle changes can often return to work and begin driving again within weeks. Patients whose occupation calls for strenuous exercise or heavy lifting may have to wait longer before returning to work and usually will require exercise testing of the heart prior to returning to those activities. It is best to talk to your doctor about when you can resume your regular activities.