Heart attack recovery takes anywhere from two weeks to three months. During this time, it’s important to begin adopting lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of a future heart attack. These include adding more exercise to your day, following a heart-healthy diet and quitting smoking. A cardiac rehab program can help you take those first steps.
Recovery from a heart attack (myocardial infarction) can take anywhere from two weeks to three months. When you’re fully recovered, you’ll be able to return to work and your normal routine.
How long your recovery takes depends on many factors, including:
Talk to your healthcare provider to learn how long recovery may take for you.
Returning home after a heart attack can feel scary or intimidating. You may have questions about what’s normal as you recover, or you may feel nervous being away from your medical care team. Your loved ones may wonder how they can best support you. As you gradually adjust back to your usual routine, you can expect some changes in the following areas:
Overall, it’s important to find balance between resting and being active as you recover from your heart attack. You need enough rest to heal, but you also need to get back to your normal activities as soon as it’s safe to do so. And exercise is essential for a strong recovery. Your healthcare provider will guide you on this path.
The first week you return home from the hospital, you may feel tired or weak. This is normal. It’s because the heart attack damaged your heart muscle, and your heart needs time to recover. Plus, you’re adjusting to being up and about after a period of bed rest. So, take the time to slowly return to your typical activities.
Here are some tips for your first few weeks back at home:
Exercise is an important part of your recovery. The best way to get moving after your heart attack is to join a cardiac rehabilitation program. Cardiac rehab offers a medically supervised setting for exercise and provides you with an individualized plan for safe movement. It also helps you make lifestyle changes to support long-term health. These include eating a healthier diet, managing stress and quitting tobacco use. Talk to your healthcare provider about cardiac rehab programs available to you.
After you complete cardiac rehab, exercise should still be part of your daily routine. If you didn’t exercise much before your heart attack, you may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of exercising regularly. Cardiac rehab can help you gradually add more movement to your day. So, by the time you complete your program, you’ll feel ready to continue on your own. Don’t get discouraged, and just keep in mind that many other people are in your shoes. Small steps add up to significant progress over time.
Eating a heart-healthy diet is important to prevent future complications of cardiovascular disease. While there are many heart-healthy plans available, research supports the value of the Mediterranean Diet for protecting your heart. This diet involves:
You may feel depressed, angry or afraid after your heart attack. These are normal responses that usually go away with time as you return to your regular activities. Here are some ways to manage these emotions:
How soon you can return to sexual activity depends on what treatment you’ve received and how you’re feeling overall. If you had open-heart surgery, you need four to six weeks for your breastbone to heal. So, that’s how long you should wait to have sex.
If you didn’t have surgery, you may be able to have sex as soon as two to four weeks after your heart attack. See how you’re feeling and what your energy level is like. If you can climb two flights of stairs without feeling too winded or having chest pain, then you probably have enough energy for sex.
As you adjust back to your usual routine, it may help to:
Your heart can recover from a heart attack, but it takes time. And the heart attack will likely leave some damage that doesn’t go away, in the form of scar tissue. The amount of heart damage varies according to:
It may take about two months for your heart muscle to heal. But the scar tissue that remains can weaken your heart’s pumping ability. Over time, this can lead to heart failure or other complications. Talk to your provider about the extent of heart damage and what you can expect going forward.
Many people fully recover and live a long life after a heart attack. However, you should be aware of your risk. About 1 in 5 people age 45 or above have a second heart attack within five years. This means prevention efforts are crucial for lowering your risk and keeping you healthy for a long time to come.
After having a heart attack, it’s important to do whatever you can to prevent future damage to your heart. Your healthcare provider will give you advice tailored to you and your individual circumstances. Below are some general tips to help you keep your heart healthy.
Your provider will prescribe medications for you after your heart attack to:
If needed, your provider may also prescribe medications that help:
Your healthcare provider will review your medications with you. Be sure to ask any questions you might have so you understand what you’re taking, the possible side effects and why.
Take all of your medications as prescribed, even if you feel completely healthy. Your medications will help you continue feeling well. If you have any side effects, keep a journal of when they happen and tell your provider.
Finally, write a medications list that you carry with you at all times. The list should include:
Some risk factors for coronary artery disease (like age or family history) can’t be changed. But it’s in your power to reduce some of your risk. Talk to your provider about strategies to help you:
You’ll have a follow-up appointment four to six weeks after you leave the hospital. Your provider will check the progress of your recovery.
You may need diagnostic tests (like exercise stress tests) at regular intervals. These tests help your provider keep an eye on your heart and notice any new or worsening blockages.
Call your provider — don’t wait for an appointment — if you have these symptoms:
Angina is a sign that your heart isn’t getting as much oxygen-rich blood as it needs. Angina can feel like:
The exact feeling can vary from person to person, but it’s usually consistent for each individual. In other words, angina will probably make you feel the same each time it happens.
Having angina after you’ve had a heart attack can be frightening. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice on what to do when it happens. Here is some general advice:
Remember, if prescribed, carry your nitroglycerin with you at all times. Keep in mind:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Recovering from a heart attack takes time, patience and a renewed dedication to your well-being. It can be hard to find time to put your health first when you have countless other responsibilities every day. But a heart attack is a warning sign that your body needs some extra care.
Now is the time to reset and focus on what you can do to support your long-term health. Work with your healthcare provider to develop a heart-healthy plan for your future.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/11/2022.
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