What to Expect After Having a Heart Attack

Every 5 minutes, someone in the UK is admitted to a hospital due to a heart attack. It’s estimated over a million people in the UK have had one.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed after a heart attack. It can be a stressful and worrying time. However, it’s important to remember you are not alone.

You probably have a bunch of questions. Below is a list of things to expect during the early days of recovering from a heart attack.

Your Hospital Stay

You can expect to stay in hospital for a few days. The exact amount of time will depend on your treatment and how you are responding. For example, if you had to get surgery or have a stent fitted, you’ll need to spend longer in the hospital. It will be up to the discretion of your doctor when to discharge you.

Returning Home

Many people feel like when they return home, they can return to everyday life. This is not the case. Take it easy and steadily build up how much you’re doing. It’s a good idea to have someone stay with you during the first week of returning home to help you with any household activities. Although it may be tempting to sit around and have others run after you, you must stay mobile and independent for a full recovery.

Going to Rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation is designed to help you get back to your usual way of living as quickly as possible. It will educate you on your condition, how to reduce further heart problems, and provide support during your recovery. If you’ve suffered from a heart attack, you should be invited to join a rehabilitation centre within four weeks. These courses usually last around 6-12 weeks and are brilliant support.

New Medication

Expect to be given new medication after a heart attack. This medication will usually have to be taken every day for the rest of your life. For people who have never had to take medication before, forgetting to take it can be easy. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to take it at the same time every day.

It’s also important to note and report any side effects of medication. Never decide to stop taking medication; always try to discuss with your doctor first.

Learning a New Lifestyle

To reduce the risk of further complications, it’s recommended to change your lifestyle. Below are some ways to do this:

  • Becoming more physically active (with guidance from your doctor first)
  • Quitting smoking
  • Cutting down alcohol consumption
  • Eating more healthy
  • Maintaining a healthy weight for your size
  • Controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.

Returning to Work

When you return to work will depend on the severity of your heart attack. It’ll also depend on what kind of work environment you are returning to. Discuss with your employer if you can do a phased return or alter your job duties while you take time to recover fully.

It’s important not to rush back to the workplace. Your doctor will be able to advise you on when they think is best.

Intimacy

It’s common to have anxiety around sex. However, many couples can return to the bedroom between 2 and 8 weeks after a heart attack. Sharing your fears and worries with your partner may help with the anxiety you feel. Remember to take things slow, and if you start to feel uncomfortable, it’s more than okay to stop.

When to Drive Again

Drivers of cars and motorcycles don’t need to inform DVLA that you had a heart attack. However, you will have to declare if you have been fitted with a pacemaker or drive large vehicles.

DVLA recommends waiting at least 4 weeks before getting back in a car. As always, double-check with your doctor.

Getting Support

Feelings of fear, depression, and anxiety are to be expected after a heart attack. You might be feeling alone or in denial. Remember to get support. It’s okay not to be okay sometimes, and everyone needs a helping hand occasionally. It’s healthy to talk about what’s worrying you, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

To Summarise

There is bound to be a lot of change after a heart attack. From new medication to adapting to a new lifestyle, there is a lot to take in.

This amount of change can become overbearing, but remember to ask for support. There are already great support groups in place to help you through this challenging time. Take care of yourself!

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