Being active after your heart attackHeart attack - activity; MI - activity; Myocardial infarction - activity; Caridiac rehabilitation - activity; ACS - activity; NSTEMI - activity; Acute coronary syndrome activity
When You're in the Hospital
You had a heart attack and were in the hospital. You may have had angioplasty and a stent placed in an artery to open a blocked artery in your heart.
Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to the heart. ...
What to Expect at Home
While you were in the hospital, you should have learned:
- How to take your pulse.
- How to recognize your angina symptoms and what to do when they happen.
Angina is a type of chest discomfort or pain due to poor blood flow through the blood vessels (coronary vessels) of the heart muscle (myocardium). Th...
- How to care for yourself at home after a heart attack.
Your health care provider may recommend a cardiac rehabilitation program to you. This program will help you learn what foods to eat and exercises to do to stay healthy. Eating well and exercising will help you start feeling healthy again.
Getting Started with Your Exercise
Before you start to exercise, your provider may have you do an exercise test. You should get exercise recommendations and an exercise plan. This may happen before you leave the hospital or soon afterward. DO NOT change your exercise plan before talking with your provider. The amount and intensity of your activity will depend on how active you were before the heart attack and how severe your heart attack was.
Take it easy at first:
- Walking is the best activity when you start exercising.
- Walk on flat ground for a few weeks at first.
- You can try bike riding after a few weeks. Walk your bike up any hills, or ride a stationary bike in an easy gear.
- If it is windy, walk or bike with the breeze behind you.
- DO NOT walk outside if it is very cold or very hot. Go to a shopping mall and do your walking inside.
Slowly increase how long you exercise at any one time. If you are up to it, repeat the activity 2 or 3 times during the day. You may want to try this very easy exercise schedule (but ask your doctor first):
- Week 1: about 5 minutes at a time
- Week 2: about 10 minutes at a time
- Week 3: about 15 minutes at a time
- Week 4: about 20 minutes at a time
- Week 5: about 25 minutes at a time
- Week 6: about 30 minutes at a time
After 6 weeks, you may be able to start swimming, but stay out of very cold or very hot water. You can also begin playing golf. Start easily with just hitting balls. Add to your golfing slowly, playing just a few holes at a time. Avoid golfing in very hot or cold weather.
You can do some things around the house to stay active, but always ask your provider first. Avoid a lot of activity on days that are very hot or cold. Some people will be able to do more after a heart attack. Others may have to start more slowly. Increase your activity level gradually by following these steps.
You may be able to cook light meals by the end of your first week. You can wash dishes or set the table if you feel up to it.
By the end of the second week you may start doing very light housework, such as making your bed. Go slowly.
After 4 weeks, you may be able to:
- Iron -- start with only 5 or 10 minutes at a time
- Shop, but do not carry heavy bags or walk too far
- Do short periods of light yard work
By 6 weeks, your doctor may allow you to do more activities, such as heavier housework and exercise, but be careful.
- Try not to lift or carry anything that is heavy, such as a vacuum cleaner or pail of water.
- If any activities cause chest pain, shortness of breath, or any of the symptoms you had before or during your heart attack, stop doing them right away. Tell your provider.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if you feel:
- Pain, pressure, tightness, or heaviness in the chest, arm, neck, or jaw
- Shortness of breath
- Gas pains or indigestion
- Numbness in your arms
- Sweaty, or if you lose color
Also call if you have angina and it:
- Becomes stronger
- Occurs more often
- Lasts longer
- Occurs when you are not active
- Does not get better when you take your medicine
These changes may mean your heart disease is getting worse.
Anderson JL, Adams CD, Antman EM, et al. ACC/AHA 2007 guidelines for the management of patients with unstable angina/non-ST-Elevation myocardial infarction: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on practice guidelines (Writing Committee to Revise the 2002 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Unstable Angina/Non-ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction) developed in collaboration with the American College of Emergency Physicians, the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons endorsed by the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2007;50(7):e1-e157. PMID: 17692738 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17692738.
Antman EM, Hand M, Armstrong PW, et al. 2007 Focused Update of the ACC/AHA 2004 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines: developed in collaboration with the Canadian Cardiovascular Society endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians: 2007 Writing Group to Review New Evidence and Update the ACC/AHA 2004 Guidelines for the Management of Patients With ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, Writing on Behalf of the 2004 Writing Committee. Circulation. 2008;117(2):296-329. PMID: 18071078 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18071078.
Giugliano RP, Cannon CP, Braunwald E. Non-ST elevation myocardial infarction. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 56.
Mega JL, Morrow DA. ST-Elevation myocardial infarction: management. In Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 52.
Smith SC Jr, Benjamin EJ, Bonow RO, et al. AHA/ACCF secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update: a guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation endorsed by the World Heart Federation and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;58(23):2432-2446. PMID: 22055990 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22055990.
Thompson PD. Exercise-based, comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 47.
Being active after a heart attack - illustration
Walking is the best activity when you start exercising after a heart attack. Start slowly, and increase the amount of time you exercise gradually.
Being active after a heart attack
- Heart attack and acute coronary syndrome(In-Depth)
- Coronary artery disease(In-Depth)
- Pulmonary edema(Alt. Medicine)
- Diabetes - type 2(In-Depth)
- Peripheral artery disease and intermittent claudication(In-Depth)
- Stroke(Alt. Medicine)
- Omega-3 fatty acids(Alt. Medicine)
Review Date: 8/22/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.