What you can expect when you return home

Returning home after a heart attack can be frightening. This section talks about early recovery, including: activity, feelings, diet, and sexual activity.

Keep in mind it takes about two months for your heart to heal.

Activity

The first week you return home, you may feel tired or weak. This is because of the damage to your heart muscle and the bedrest you had in the hospital.

For the first few weeks:

  • Get dressed each morning. You should be able to take care of all your personal hygiene (bathing, shaving, dressing).
  • Pace yourself. Spread your activities throughout the day. If you become tired, rest and schedule unfinished activities for another day.
  • You may climb stairs at home as part of your daily activity, unless your doctor told you not to. Try to arrange your activities so that you do not have to climb up and down stairs several times during the day.
  • Walk every day as prescribed by your doctor. A regular walking program is a good way to regain your energy. Ask your doctor about the right amount of exercise for you.
  • When you feel stronger, you may return to light household chores, such as folding clothes, cooking, light gardening, dusting and washing dishes.
  • Do not lift, push or pull very heavy objects until your doctor tells you that you may resume these activities.
  • Your doctor will advise you as to when you can return to work, drive a car and begin more vigorous activities

Feelings after a heart attack

About one fourth of patients after a heart attack feel depressed, angry and afraid. These are normal responses that usually go away with time, as you get back to your regular activities. To help relieve the emotional blues:

  • Get up and get dressed every day. Do not stay in bed all day
  • Get out and walk daily. Daily activity will help you have a healthy mind and body.
  • Resume hobbies and social activities you enjoy.
  • Share your feelings with your family, a friend, a clergyman, or support group
  • Get a good night's sleep. Lack of sleep can cause you to feel tired or irritable. Be careful not to nap too much during the day, or you will not be able to sleep at night.
  • Limit visits with friends and family at first, to avoid feeling over-tired. Increase them depending on how you feel. With time, these visits can be helpful to lift your spirits.
  • Join a cardiac rehabilitation program – emotional support is just one benefit to a guided activity & education program.
  • If you have questions, ask your health care team! You can avoid much stress for yourself and your family if you know about your heart disease and what you can and cannot do.

If you do not feel like your emotions are improving or you are concerned about feeling of depressed call your doctor. Medications and counseling is available to help you through this time.

Diet

Eating a heart healthy diet is very important to prevent future complications of heart disease. Six strategies to reduce coronary artery disease include:

  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes
  • Choose fat calories wisely
  • Eat a variety, and just the right amount of protein foods
  • Limit dietary cholesterol
  • Use complex carbohydrates for energy, and limit the intake of simple carbohydrates
  • Place less emphasis on sodium and increase your intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium

Sexual activity

Sexual activity can usually be resumed shortly after leaving the hospital. The amount of energy it requires to perform intercourse with a spouse or regular partner is similar to climbing about one or two flights of stairs or walking about one-half mile (0.8 km) at a brisk pace. If you cannot perform these activities without getting angina, short of breath, or becoming over-tired, please discuss this with your doctor before resuming sexual activity.

Keep in mind that a sexual relationship has both physical and emotional aspects

  • Talk openly with your partner
  • Have sex when you are rested and physically comfortable
  • Be caring, honest and loving with each other
  • Anxiety on the part of either partner, as well as some medications, may interfere with sexual arousal and performance. So discuss any difficulties with your doctor.