How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?

Updated:Feb 8,2013
There’s good news for people who have had a heart attack. The worst is over, and soon you can do most of the things you used to do!
Now is a good time to make healthy changes in your lifestyle. Heart disease can get worse unless you take steps to get your heart in good shape.
After a heart attack, it’s common to worry a lot. Getting better and feeling good about yourself will take time. It helps to do as your doctor says and to learn about keeping your heart healthy.
Are my feelings normal?
Most patients say they have unpleasant feelings after a heart attack. These are normal and easy to understand. It’s a good idea to talk to someone about your feelings — don’t keep them inside. In time, these feelings should go away.
  • of dying
  • of chest pains
  • that you can’t have sex
  • that you can’t work
  • that it happened to you
  • at family and friends
Depression, such as thinking…
  • “Life is over.”
  • You might not be the same again.
  • Others might think you are weak.
How will my family feel?
People who are close to you will also “feel” your heart attack. Instead of keeping bad feelings in, you should all talk about them.
Family members may feel…
• Frightened to see you in the hospital.
• Angry that the heart attack came at a bad time.
• Guilty because they think they “caused” it, even if they know it’s not possible.
What changes should I make?
  • Get help to quit if you smoke.
  • Manage high blood pressure.
  • Eat healthy meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and salt.
  • Get involved in regular physical activities.
  • Lose weight if you need to.
  • Take your medicine exactly as prescribed.
What about sex?
  • Check with your doctor first, but you should be able to have sex the way you did before. You should be ready when you’re able to walk around easily.
  • If you have chest pain during sex, have lost interest, or are worried about having sex, talk with your doctor.
When can I go back to work?
  • Most people go back to work in 2 weeks to 3 months.
  • Your doctor may have you take tests to find out if you can do the kind of work you did before.
  • Some people change jobs to make it easier on their heart.
  • Ask your doctor about cardiac rehabilitation programs in your area.
How can I learn more?
  1. Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family also may be at higher risk. It’s very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
  2. Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit to learn more about heart disease.
  3. For information on stroke, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit us online at
We have many other fact sheets and educational booklets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit to learn more.

Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live!
Do you have questions or comments for your doctor or nurse?
Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:
Can I play sports?
What if I stay depressed?

©2012, American Heart Association

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

Heart-related Conditions
What is Angina?
What is an Arrhythmia?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
How Can I Lower High Cholesterol?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
What Are High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What Is Diabetes and How Can I Manage It?
How Can I Live With Heart Failure?
What Is Heart Failure?
What Is a Heart Attack?
How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack?
What Are Heart Disease and Stroke?
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

Treatment, Tests and Procedures
What is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
What is High Blood Pressure Medicine?
What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?
What Is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?
What Is a Pacemaker?
What Is Coronary Angioplasty?
What is a Stent?
What is Coronary Bypass Surgery?
What is a Coronary Angiogram?
How Can I Recover From Heart Surgery?
What is Carotid Endarterectomy?

Healthy Lifestyle and Risk Reduction
How Can I Manage My Weight?
How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life?
Why Should I Be Physically Active?
How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Read "Nutrition Facts" Labels?
How Can I Quit Smoking?
How Can I Manage Stress?
How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?
How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Weight?