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After a Heart Attack

Most people survive a first heart attack and go on to live a full and productive life. Here are steps you can take after a heart attack to ensure a full recovery.

Recovery Starts in the Hospital

Recovery begins in the hospital. Typically, a person is in the hospital for three days to a week after a heart attack. But if there were complications or if you have had certain procedures such as bypass surgery, you will likely be kept longer. You won't be dismissed until your condition is stable and it is safe for you to go home.

One of the first changes you may notice in the hospital is that your medication routine might change. The doctor might make adjustments in the dosage or the number of medicines you are already taking. And the doctor will likely put you on new medicines. These medicines will treat and control the symptoms (such as chest pain) and contributing factors (such as high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol) related to your heart attack.

It's important to talk with the doctor about your medicines. Make sure you:

  • Know the names of all the medicines you take and know how and when to take them.
  • Ask your doctor about possible side effects.
  • Ask what each medicine does and why you are taking it.
  • Make a list of the medicines you take. Keep it with you in case of an emergency or in case you need to talk with another health care provider about them.

Your Emotional Health After a Heart Attack

After a heart attack, it's common to have negative feelings such as:

  • fear
  • depression
  • denial
  • anxiety

These feelings often last for about two to six months. They can affect your ability to exercise, interfere with your family life and your work, and have a negative impact on your recovery.

Talking with your doctor or a mental health specialist can help you deal with negative feelings. Let your family and your doctor know about them. If they don't know, they can't help.

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