Heart Attack

Heart Attack Recovery

Most people survive heart attacks and live active, full lives. If you get help quickly, your treatment can limit damage to your heart muscle. Less heart damage and healthy lifestyle changes improve your chances of a better quality of life after a heart attack.


Learn about the steps you can take to keep your heart healthy after a heart attack. Medical Illustration Copyright © 2022 Nucleus Medical Media. All rights reserved

Cardiac rehabilitation

You may need cardiac rehabilitation to help you recover from a heart attack and to help prevent another heart attack.

Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program for people recovering from heart problems. Cardiac rehabilitation involves adopting heart-healthy lifestyle changes to lower your risk for more heart and blood vessel diseases. To help you adopt lifestyle changes, these programs include exercise training, education about heart-healthy living, and counseling to reduce stress and help you return to an active life.

Cardiac rehabilitation is provided in an outpatient clinic or in a hospital rehab center. Your team will design a program to meet your needs. During cardiac rehabilitation, you will learn to exercise safely and increase your physical activity. The length of time that you spend in cardiac rehabilitation depends on your condition. Medicare and most insurance plans cover a standard cardiac rehabilitation program that includes 36 supervised sessions over 12 weeks.

Cardiac rehabilitation can benefit you by:

  • Improving your health and quality of life
  • Reducing the need for medicines to treat heart or chest pain
  • Decreasing the chance you will need to go back to a hospital or emergency room for a heart problem
  • Preventing future heart problems

The heart-healthy lifestyle changes in cardiac rehabilitation have few risks. In very rare cases,, physical activity during the rehabilitation program can cause serious problems, such as injuries to your muscles and bones, or possible life-threatening heart rhythm problems.

Returning to normal activities

You may be able to return to your normal activities within a few weeks if you don’t have chest pain, discomfort, or other problems. Many people can start walking right away. Talk with your doctor about a safe schedule for returning to your normal routine, including sexual activity.

Depending on your state laws, you may be able to start driving within a week. You shouldn’t start driving if you still have symptoms of a heart attack.

Take steps to prevent another heart attack

Once you’ve had a heart attack, you have a higher risk of another one. Your doctor may prescribe medicines or talk to you about steps you can take, including heart-healthy lifestyle changes.


  • ACE inhibitors lower your blood pressure and make it easier for your heart to pump blood. Side effects may include pain in your stomach area and swelling in your face and neck.
  • Anticlotting medicines, such as aspirin and clopidogrel, stop  platelet from clumping together to form blood clots.
  • Anticoagulants, or blood thinners, help prevent blood clots from forming in your blood vessels. These medicines also keep existing clots from getting larger. Both anticlotting medicines and anticoagulants can cause bleeding problems.
  • Beta blockers make it easier for your heart to pump blood. These medicines are also used to treat irregular heartbeats and chest pain and discomfort. Side effects include an irregular heartbeat and worsening heart failure.
  • Statins control or lower your blood cholesterol. Serious side effects include muscle pain and muscle damage.

Take all your medicines as instructed by your doctor. Don’t change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose unless your doctor tells you to. If you find it hard to get your medicines or complete your cardiac rehabilitation program, talk to your doctor.

Make heart-healthy lifestyle changes

Learn more about heart-healthy living:

The symptoms of a second heart attack may not be the same as those of your first heart attack. Don’t take a chance if you’re not sure. Always call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has heart attack symptoms.

Learn about the difference between the symptoms of angina and a heart attack. Medical Illustration Copyright © 2022 Nucleus Medical Media. All rights reserved

What kind of health problems can a heart attack cause?

A heart attack can cause serious heart problems, including the ones listed below.

Sticking to your treatment plan can help prevent other problems.

Take care of your mental health

After a heart attack, you may worry about having another heart attack. You may also feel depressed and have trouble adjusting to your new lifestyle changes.

  • Talk about how you feel with your healthcare team. They may recommend talking to a professional counselor or joining a patient support group.
  • Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you. Support from family and friends can help lower your stress and anxiety.

If you’re depressed, you may need medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.

In Brief: Your Guide to Living Well With Heart Disease factsheet

In Brief: Your Guide to Living Well with Heart Disease

Learn key steps to improve your heart health to prevent complications.

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