You were in the hospital because you had a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of your heart is blocked long enough that part of the heart muscle is damaged or dies.
What to Expect at Home
You may feel sad. You may feel anxious and as though you have to be very careful about what you do. All of these feelings are normal. They go away for most people after 2 or 3 weeks. You may also feel tired when you leave the hospital to go home.
You should know the signs and symptoms of angina.
You may feel pressure, squeezing, burning, or tightness in your chest. You may also notice these symptoms in your arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, throat, or back.
Women may feel discomfort in their back, shoulders, and stomach area.
You may have indigestion or feel sick to your stomach.
You may feel tired and be short of breath, sweaty, lightheaded, or weak.
You may have angina during physical activity, such as climbing stairs or walking uphill, lifting, sexual activity, or when you are out in cold weather. It can also happen when you are resting or wake you up when you are sleeping.
Avoid heavy lifting. Get some help with household chores if you can.
Take 30 - 60 minutes to rest in the afternoon for first 4 - 6 weeks. Try to go to bed early and get plenty of sleep.
Before starting to exercise, your doctor will do an exercise test and recommend an exercise plan. This may happen before you leave the hospital or soon afterward. Do not change your exercise plan before talking with your health care provider.
You should be able to talk comfortably when you are doing any activity -- such as walking, setting the table, and doing laundry. If you cannot, stop the activity.
Ask your doctor about when you can return to work. Expect to be away from work for at least 4 - 6 weeks.
Your doctor may refer you to cardiac rehabilitation program. There, you will learn how to slowly increase your exercise and how to take care of your heart disease.
Wait at least 2 weeks before sexual activity. Ask your doctor when it is okay to start again. Do not take Viagra, Levitra, Cialis or any herbal remedy for erection problems without checking with your doctor first.
How long you will have to wait to return to your normal activities will depend on:
Your physical condition before your heart attack
The size of your heart attack
If you had complications
The overall speed of your recovery
Diet and Lifestyle
Do not drink any alcohol for at least 2 weeks. Ask your doctor when you may start. Limit how much you drink. Women should have only 1 drink a day, and men should have no more than 2 a day. Try to drink alcohol only when you are eating.
If you smoke, stop. Ask your doctor for help quitting if you need it. Do not let anybody smoke in your home, since second-hand smoke can harm you. Try to stay away from things that are stressful for you. If you are feeling stressed all the time, or if you are feeling very sad, talk with your doctor or nurse. They can refer you to a counselor.
Learn more about what you should eat to make your heart and blood vessels healthier.
Have your drug prescriptions filled before you go home. It is very important that you take your drugs the way your doctor or nurse told you to. Do not take any other drugs or herbal supplements without asking your doctor first if they are safe for you.
Take your drugs with water. Do NOT take them with grapefruit juice, since it may change how your body absorbs certain medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information about this.
The drugs below are given to most people after they have had a heart attack. Sometimes there is a reason they may not be safe to take, though. These drugs help prevent another heart attack. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you are not already on any of these drugs:
Antiplatelets drugs (blood thinners), such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), prasugrel (Efient), or ticagrelor (Brilinta)
to help keep your blood from clotting
Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitor medicines to help protect your heart
Do NOT suddenly stop taking these drugs for your heart. Do NOT stop taking drugs for your diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other medical conditions you may have without talking with your doctor first.
If you are taking a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin), you may need to have extra blood tests on a regular basis to make sure your dose is correct.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor if you feel:
Pain, pressure, tightness, or heaviness in your chest, arm, neck, or jaw
Shortness of breath
Gas pains or indigestion
Numbness in your arms
Sweaty, or if you lose color
Changes in your angina may mean your heart disease is getting worse. Call your doctor if your angina:
Happens more often
Occurs when you are not active or when you are resting
Medicines do not help ease your symptoms as well as they used to
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Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.