GETTING BACK INTO YOUR LIFE AFTER A HEART ATTACK
How soon can I return to my regular activities?
Once you’re through the early period after a heart attack, your doctor may talk to you about how to be active within your limits. Your doctor will probably want you to do an exercise test (also called a stress test). During this test, your doctor will ask you to exercise (usually walking on a treadmill) while he or she monitors your heart. Based on the results, your doctor will develop an exercise plan for you.
Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms during exercise:
Shortness of breath for more than about 10 minutes
Chest pain or pain in your arms, neck, jaw or stomach
Pale or splotchy skin
Very fast heart beat or an irregular heart beat
Nausea and vomiting
Weakness or fainting
Swelling or pain in your legs
RISK FACTORS FOR ANOTHER HEART ATTACK
Taking charge of the things that put you at risk for another heart attack can help you feel better and reduce your risk of future problems. The following factors can put you at risk for another heart attack:
Alcohol in excessive amounts
Being overweight or obese
High cholesterol level
High blood sugar level if you have diabetes
High blood pressure
Too much stress in your life
How often should I exercise?
This depends on your exercise plan. You’ll probably start slowly and gradually add to your routine. Your doctor may want you to exercise 3 or 4 times a week for about 10 to 30 minutes at a time. Be sure to warm up before exercising, for example by walking at a comfortable pace for 5 minutes or more.
What can I do to speed my recovery and stay healthy?
Your doctor will probably recommend that you make some changes in your diet, such as cutting back on fat and cholesterol and watching how much salt you eat. If you smoke, you will have to quit. Your doctor may also suggest that you learn better ways to deal with stress, such as time management, relaxation training and deep breathing.
When can I go back to work?
Most people go back to work within 1 to 3 months after having a heart attack. The amount of time you are off from work depends on the condition of your heart and how strenuous or stressful your work is. You may have to make some changes in how you do your job or you may have to change jobs, at least for a short time, if your job is too hard on your heart.
What about sex?
You can probably start having sex again in 3 to 4 weeks after your heart attack. As with other types of activity, you may need to start out slowly and work your way back into your normal patterns.
Don’t be afraid of sex because of your heart attack. Try different positions if one position seems to make you uncomfortable. Let your partner be on top to reduce the amount of energy you use during sex. Talk with your doctor if you or your partner have any concerns.
What is a “MET?”
You may hear your doctor talk about METs when he or she discusses your activity level. METs stands for “metabolic equivalents.” Different activities are assigned different MET levels depending on how much energy they take to do (see below). The higher the MET level, the more energy the activity takes. Your doctor may ask you to avoid activities that take more than 3 or 3.5 METs right after your heart attack.
|Sitting in a chair||1.0|
|Sweeping the floor||1.5|
|Driving a car||2.0|