Cardiac Arrest
Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac Arrest Life After

Before you are discharged from the hospital after a cardiac arrest, you and your caregivers will need to prepare for your care at home. Adjusting to life after a major heart event such as a cardiac arrest is not easy, but planning can help.

As a survivor of cardiac arrest, you have a high risk of having another event. Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to help keep you safe. It is important that you continue your treatment plan. 

Follow-up care

Take care of any medical condition that may have led to the cardiac arrest.

It is important to get routine medical care and take all medicines regularly, as your provider prescribes. Do not change the amount of your medicine or skip a dose unless your provider tells you to. Talk with your provider about how often you should schedule office visits and blood tests.

Between visits, call your provider if you have any new symptoms, your symptoms worsen, or you have problems with your blood pressure or blood sugar. Be alert for warning signs of cardiac arrest and avoid possible triggers.

Heart-healthy living

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Choose heart-healthy foods

Heart-healthy eating may include the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. A heart-healthy eating plan includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limits saturated fats, sodium (salt), added sugars, and alcohol.

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Aim for a healthy weight

Overweight and obesity can make your heart work harder. If you are overweight, losing just 3% to 5% of your current weight can help manage some risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and diabetes, that raise your risk of heart disease.   

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Get regular physical activity

Regular physical activity can help manage risk factors for heart disease such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and overweight and obesity. Before starting any exercise program, ask about what level of physical activity is right for you. 

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Manage stress

Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health. 


Your Guide to a Healthy Heart

Your Guide to a Healthy Heart

Learn practical tips for establishing and maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Cardiac rehabilitation

Your healthcare provider may recommend cardiac rehabilitation, a supervised exercise program to manage symptoms and reduce the chances of future heart problems. Studies have shown that cardiac rehabilitation lowers the risk of hospitalization and death. It can also improve your quality of life.

Life with a cardioverter device

Your healthcare provider may have recommended an implanted cardioverter device (ICD), a subcutaneous cardioverter device (SCD), or a wearable cardioverter vest to help keep you safe. Here are a few things you need to know.

  • Work with your healthcare team to set up a treatment plan to reduce your risk of another event. Getting a cardioverter device does not change the underlying condition that led to the cardiac arrest.
  • Tell all your healthcare providers that you have an ICD or an SCD, especially before any medical procedures.
  • Visit your provider regularly after surgery to implant an ICD or SCD or a fitting for a wearable cardioverter device to check your condition and the device.
  • Wear your cardioverter vest all the time, except when showering or bathing.
  • Ask your provider whether remote monitoring of your cardioverter is a possibility for you.
  • Check with your provider before playing sports or taking part in other activities that might affect your chest, dislodge your cardioverter wires, or require intense physical exertion.
  • Call your provider whenever you get a shock. You may get inappropriate shocks, or shocks in response to a problem with your heart or your cardioverter device. If your cardioverter is giving you frequent shocks, your doctor may be able to adjust the device settings or perform a catheter ablation-based procedure on your heart to eliminate the source of the abnormal rhythm.

Visit our Defibrillators page to learn more about living with an ICD and using a wearable cardioverter vest, as well as precautions to keep you safe.

Steps to help keep you safe

If you have survived a cardiac arrest or have a heart condition that puts you at high risk of cardiac arrest, take steps that can help others keep you safe.

  • Wear a medical ID necklace or bracelet that identifies your health condition. This will help alert medical personnel and others about your condition if there is an emergency.
  • Let your roommates, co-workers, and other people with whom you have regular contact know that you have a condition that might cause you to faint or go into cardiac arrest. Tell them to call 9-1-1 right away if you faint.
  • Consider asking family members and coworkers to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case your heart stops beating.
  • Consider keeping an automated external defibrillator (AED) with you at home or at work. This device uses electric shocks to restore a normal heart rhythm.Make sure someone at your home or workplace is trained in how to use the AED, just in case your heart stops beating. If a trained person is not available, an untrained person can also use the AED to help save your life.

When to call your healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of the issues listed below.

  • Your ICD goes off and you feel unwell.
  • Your ICD goes off several times in a short time.
  • Your device gives your heart a shock.

Take care of your mental health

It is common for people to feel anxious or depressed after having a cardiac arrest. Adjusting to life with a cardioverter is also challenging for many people. Although the device helps keep you safe from dangerous arrhythmias, knowing that it may give you a sudden shock can cause stress.

You may worry about having heart problems or making lifestyle changes that are necessary for your health. By lowering your stress levels and learning coping skills, you may be able to live longer and improve your quality of life. Talk with your healthcare team about how you feel. Your provider may recommend you ask others for support.

  • Join a patient support group. This may help you adjust to living with a heart condition. You can find out how other people manage similar problems and deal with a cardioverter device. Your provider may be able to recommend local support groups, or you can check with an area medical center.
  • Seek support from family and friends. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Talk to a professional counselor. If you have depression or anxiety, medicines or other treatments can improve your quality of life.

Join a clinical trial 

We lead or sponsor many studies on cardiac arrest and the conditions that can lead to cardiac arrest. See whether you or a loved one is eligible to join an NHLBI study. 

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