Heart Attack and Unstable Angina - Life After a Heart Attack

Coming home after a heart attack may be unsettling. Your hospital stay may have seemed too short. You may be nervous about being home without doctors and nurses after being so closely watched in the hospital.

But you have had tests that tell your doctor that it is safe for you to return home. Now that you're home, you can take steps to live a healthy lifestyle to reduce the chance of having another heart attack.

Do cardiac rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) teaches you how to be more active and make lifestyle changes that can lead to a stronger heart and better health.

If you don't do a cardiac rehab program, you will still need to learn about lifestyle changes that can lower your risk of another heart attack. These changes include quitting smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, and being active. For more information on lifestyle changes, see Prevention.

Learn healthy habits

Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your chance of another heart attack. Quitting smoking, eating heart-healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and staying at a healthy weight are important steps you can take.

Interactive Tool: Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
Heart Disease: Eating Heart-Healthy Foods
Heart Disease: Exercising for a Healthy Heart
Weight Management

For more information on how to make healthy lifestyle changes, see Prevention.

Manage your angina

Tell your doctor about any angina symptoms you have after a heart attack. Many people have stable angina that can be relieved with rest or nitroglycerin.

Manage stress and get help for depression

Depression and heart disease are linked. People who have heart disease are more likely to get depressed. And if you have both depression and heart disease, you may not stay as healthy as possible. This can make depression and heart disease worse.

If you think you may have depression, talk to your doctor.

Stress and anger can also hurt your heart. They might make your symptoms worse. Try different ways to reduce stress, such as exercise, deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.


Have sex when you're ready

You can resume sexual activity after a heart attack when you are healthy and feel ready for it. You could be ready if you can do mild or moderate activity, like brisk walking, without having angina symptoms. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns. Your doctor can help you know if your heart is healthy enough for sex.

If you take a nitrate, like nitroglycerin, do not take erection-enhancing medicines. Combining a nitrate with one of these medicines can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.

Get support

Whether you are recovering from a heart attack or are changing your lifestyle so you can avoid another one, emotional support from friends and family is important. Think about joining a heart disease support group. Ask your doctor about the types of support that are available where you live. Cardiac rehab programs offer support for you and your family. Meeting other people with the same problems can help you know you're not alone.

Take other steps to live healthier

After a heart attack, it's also important to:

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Do not stop taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Keep your blood sugar in your target range if you have diabetes.
  • Get a flu vaccine every year. It can help you stay healthy and may prevent another heart attack.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if you drink. This means having 1 alcoholic drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Seek help for sleep problems. Your doctor may want to check for sleep apnea, a common sleep problem in people who have heart disease. For more information, see the topic Sleep Apnea.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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