You had a heart attack. Now what?
If you don’t know the answer, you’re not alone. Many survivors feel scared, confused and overwhelmed after a heart attack and it’s no surprise. You experienced a life changing event. You probably received a lot of information and instructions from your doctor. Now, you’re trying to understand what happened and — more importantly — what you need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Navigating the road to recovery isn’t easy. Questions, confusion, fear and uncertainty are normal and common. Get answers to your questions and learn more about what to expect.
Don’t Wait for a Second
Where were you when you had your first heart attack? It's an experience you'll never forget — and one you never want to repeat. After a first heart attack, most people go on to live a long, productive life. However, around 20 percent of patients age 45 and older will have another heart attack within five years of their first.
Don’t wait for a second; make preventing another heart attack your first priority. Here are five things you can do:
Take your medications as prescribed. Certain medicines can greatly lower your risk of another cardiac event. That's why it's important for you to understand your medicines and take them correctly. Learn about how to manage your medications.
Attend your follow-up appointments. Attending your follow-up appointments will help your doctors keep track of your condition and recovery. You can make the most of your time with your doctor by preparing for your appointment.
Participate in cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program designed to help you recover after a heart attack. You should have received a referral to cardiac rehab when you were discharged from the hospital — if you did not, ask your doctor about it. Learn more about cardiac rehab here.
Get support. It is normal to feel scared, overwhelmed or confused after a heart attack. Getting support from loved ones or from people who have also had a heart attack can help you cope. Connect with other heart attack survivors and caregivers through our Support Network.
Manage your risk factors. After a heart attack, it is important to manage risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes by taking medications, quitting smoking, eating healthy food, and getting active. Find out more about managing your risk factors.
Learn about other lifestyle changes here.
This content was last reviewed June 2016.