Heart Attack Recovery Questions and Answers 

The First 90 Days After a Heart Attack: Family & Friends

Every year, many of the hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. who have a heart attack survive and go back to work and enjoy a normal life. After a heart attack, you’ll have to make important lifestyle changes and take medication to prevent a future heart attack and lead a full, productive life.

Your health care team will tell you what medications you need to take and recommend lifestyle changes.  

View an animation of a heart attack(link opens in new window).

What treatments will I need?

Treatments for people who have had a heart attack include medications, lifestyle changes and, in some cases, surgical procedures. Your health care team may also run some tests to determine how much your heart was damaged and what degree of coronary artery disease you have.

How long will I need to rest after my heart attack?

Rest is important after a heart attack, but it's just as important for you to participate in recreation and social events and to begin making physical activity a part of your daily life. In many cases health care professionals will recommend that survivors get more physical activity than they got before their heart attack. A good night's rest is also important. And if you feel tired during the day, take a nap or a short rest. You should rest before you get too tired. Your health care team will tell you what's best for your specific situation.

When can I go back to work?

Talk to your health care professional about a safe schedule for returning to work. Most people go back to work within two to three months, but this can vary based on the type of work. People who work in physically demanding jobs may need longer before returning to work.

Is it normal to feel depressed?

Heart attack survivors often feel a wide range of emotions. Depression is quite normal, along with fear and anger. Your moods may vary widely from day to day, and your thoughts will reflect your moods. It may take a few weeks before negative emotions associated with the heart attack resolve. Although depression is normal after a heart attack, if it interferes with sleeping, eating, self-esteem, or if you have thoughts of suicide, you should talk to your health care professional and those close to you about your feelings. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Recovery is much faster with a trusted support team of health care professionals, family and friends.

How will my family feel?

Your heart attack has probably had a big emotional impact on your family. They may feel frightened, angry, resentful or even guilty. Teenagers are especially sensitive and may think that something they did caused you to have the heart attack. It's better for everyone to get their feelings out in the open. If you think counseling would help your, ask your health care team to refer you to someone for help.

Is chest pain normal after a heart attack?

Not everyone with coronary heart disease has chest pain (angina pectoris or unstable angina), but if you do, it should be a light pain or pressure in your chest that quickly goes away. It will typically happen during or right after physical exertion, intense emotion or eating a heavy meal. Modification of risk factors and the use of certain medications can help ease or prevent the pain. If you're having ANY chest pains, tell your health care professional or call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. 

Why is cardiac rehabilitation important?

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to get into a cardiac rehabilitation program. Rehabilitation programs are medically supervised to help you improve your health and well-being and change your lifestyle habits through exercise training, education and counseling to reduce stress. These programs often take place at a hospital rehab center or an outpatient clinic. Your rehab team will design a program to meet your specific needs.

Learn more about cardiac rehabilitation.

Why are lifestyle changes important?

Making changes in your lifestyle is one of the most important things you can do to prevent another heart attack, heart disease and stroke.

Even if you're taking prescription medication, it's still important to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle. Learn more about the lifestyle changes for heart attack prevention.

What about sex after a heart attack?

Most people can return to sexual activity after they recover from a heart attack, depending on the type of treatment they received. Talk to your health care professional about the best time for you to return to sexual activity.

Learn more about sex and heart disease.