10 Tips for Heart Attack Recovery

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • middle-aged-couple-smiling-for-selfie
    Lean in and focus on recovery after a heart attack.
    If you’ve had a heart attack, you know firsthand it can take a physical and emotional toll. Thankfully, many people live a normal, productive life after a heart attack. Talk with your doctor about the following tips for a healthy heart attack recovery and learn how to tailor your approach to fit with your goals and desired lifestyle. 
  • medication
    1. Take medication as prescribed.
    Research shows many heart attack survivors don’t take medication as prescribed by their doctors. But these medicines can keep your condition under control and help prevent future problems. If you have medication concerns, such as the inability to pay for them, tell your doctor. 
  • Walking
    2. Walk it off.
    Exercise is one of the best activities you can do for your heart because it lowers cardiovascular risk factors. Not only does it help keep weight in check and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but it can also ease stress and ward off depression. Build up to 30 minutes of walking every day. Talk with your doctor about an exercise routine that’s right for you. 
  • sleeping
    3. Get your Zs.
    It’s important to be active. But don’t forget rest is important, too. Experts advise heart patients to rest before they get tired. Go ahead and take a catnap if you get tired during the day, and focus on getting a full night’s sleep. 
  • messy desk
    4. Ease into work.
    You may feel pressure to get back on the job after a heart attack. But discuss it with your doctor first. Some survivors begin working in as little as two weeks, while others require three months or longer. Take adequate time for recovery before jumping back in. Discuss the option of light duty or other types of modified work schedules with your supervisor.
  • Quit Smoking
    5. Kick the habit.
    If you smoke after a heart attack, your chances of having another heart attack double. Although it isn’t easy, put your health first and make a commitment to quit for good. Your doctor can recommend programs and resources to help, and your insurance likely covers smoking cessation therapy. 
  • Comforting a friend
    6. Recognize and treat depression.
    If you’re feeling down after a heart attack, you’re not alone. Depression is very common among heart attack survivors. The illness can interfere with sleeping, eating, motivation, and self-esteem and can also hamper your recovery. If you feel depressed, ask for help. 
  • Healthy meal
    7. Eat well.
    Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, lean protein, and high-fiber foods can do wonders for your health—including reducing cardiovascular risk factors. Eaten in sensible portion sizes, these foods can help control cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and weight. If you’re not sure what to eat, talk with a dietitian.
  • older couple on a laptop
    8. Check out cardiac rehab.
    Ask your doctor about cardiac rehabilitation—a medically supervised program that helps people recover from a heart attack, adopt healthier habits, and prevent a second attack. It provides everything you need for recovery in one location. Plus, research shows heart attack survivors fare better with cardiac rehab than without.
  • Older man holding chest
    9. Talk about chest pain.
    It’s not unusual for heart attack survivors to experience small, brief chest pains, especially after exercise or intense emotion. Although common, the pains can cause anxiety and fear. Tell your doctor if you are having chest pain or any unusual sensations. Ask about specific exercises and medications to help keep minor pains under control. 
  • grandparents-at-farmers-market-with-grandson
    10. Have a plan.
    If you’ve had a heart attack, you are at increased risk of having another one. This is an unsettling statistic, but you can significantly improve your odds of not having another heart attack by following your recovery plan. In addition to living a heart-healthy lifestyle, take charge of your health and develop an emergency action plan. If you live alone, consider a wearable medical alert device. Talk with your doctor about warning signs to watch for and when to call 911.
Heart Attack Recovery | 10 Tips for Recovery After Heart Attack
  1. Choudry N, et al. Full coverage for preventive medications after myocardial infarction. N Engl J Med. 2011;365(22):2088-97. 
  2. Heart Attack Recovery FAQS. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-R...
  3. Heart Health and Diet. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/heart-and-cardiovascular-health/heart-health-and-di...
  4. Life After a Heart Attack. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heartattack/lifeafter
  5. Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Lifestyle-Chan...
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 7
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.