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Recovering after a heart attack

It can take a while to come to terms with having a heart attack, but everyone is different. For some people, their recovery will be quick. For others, it may take longer. 

Some people worry about having another heart attack, or not being able to do as much as before. Try not to think too far ahead. Many people make a full recovery. It just takes time.

You may have times when you feel well, followed by days when you feel less well. This is normal and it’s important not to be too hard on yourself.

Heart attack recovery in hospital

After receiving treatment, you’ll usually be in hospital for a few days. The length of your stay will depend on what treatment you’ve had and how well you begin to recover. 

During your stay, you’ll be monitored and have tests to see how well your heart is recovering. 

When you first arrive in hospital, you’ll likely be admitted to a coronary care unit (CCU). During your stay, you might be moved to a cardiac ward. 

You won’t be discharged from hospital until your doctor is certain you’re well enough to go home. 

Heart attack recovery at home

You should take it easy early on, gradually building up how much you do. Try to get up, wash and get dressed, even if you don’t feel like doing so. 

Do some light household activities like making a hot drink, or get back into the habit of doing the usual things like the washing up. Keep active by going up and down stairs, walking around the house or by going for a short walk.

These small activities might make you feel tired or groggy at first but keep going. If they make you feel very unwell, contact your GP or cardiac rehab nurse if you’re already in touch with them.

If you’ve had a stent inserted it’s common to experience a ‘settling down’ discomfort which may feel similar to the pain you had at the time of the heart attack. If you get chest pain:

  • use your GTN spray as prescribed
  • if the pain doesn’t stop after using the spray twice, or within a few minutes, call 999 for an ambulance. 

You might find it helpful to have someone stay with you for the first few days or weeks once you return home. They can give you a hand around the house and help you build your confidence. 

Although your loved ones might be tempted to ‘wrap you in cotton wool’, it’s important you are as independent as possible. 

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