You survived a heart attack.
That’s the really good news. As your physician may have already told you, with the right exercise, medications and a positive outlook, you should go on to enjoy living a full, productive life. Once you’re home from the hospital and on the road to recovery, your doctor will probably determine what kind of cardiac rehabilitation you may need. Your hospital may offer outpatient cardiac rehab services or you may be referred to a cardiac rehab program run by a heart center.
Getting on Track After a Heart Attack
Cardiac rehab offers several benefits:
- You’ll recover faster and more thoroughly from a heart attack with an improved psychological outlook and better physical and emotional outcome.
- You’ll learn ways to strengthen and protect our heart from future attacks, including identifying risk factors and how to reduce those risks, such as by smoking cessation or weight loss.
- You’ll work with certified exercise trainers to learn safe ways to increase your activity levels, usually following a stress test to determine your appropriate level of activity. Some of the recommended exercise may include activities such as swimming, treadmills, stationary bike cycling and lower impact aerobic exercises.
Remember that exercise is important to prevent a future heart attack – don’t be afraid to start moving again. Just don’t overdo it, especially in the early stages of returning to normal activities.
Typical workouts may include 10 minutes of warm-up activities, such as stretching or light walking or cycling. This would be followed by more vigorous activities for 20 to 30 minutes, ending with a cool-down for about five minutes.
If you haven’t learned to do so, ask your trainer to show you how to take your pulse or use a heart-rate monitor before and after, as well as during each workout. The staff at the rehab center may want to know your rate numbers when checking in; if your heart rate isn’t in the prescribed range then the intensity levels may need to be modified. If you’re elderly, severely ill, have a pacemaker or are disabled your physician and instructors may decide that a less-strenuous program is a safer bet.
Never push yourself with exercise beyond recommended levels, and stop immediately if you have any of the following:
- Angina or other chest pain
- Extreme shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
The above can all signal serious problems, so be sure to get medical attention immediately, especially if the symptoms persist or worsen.
Aerobic exercises that offer cardiovascular benefits include walking, jogging, cycling, rowing and swimming. Depending on your age and previous level of fitness, your doctor may restrict you to lower-intensity workouts, at least during rehab. Avoid any heavy lifting during your recovery and follow your instructor’s advice to avoid further injury.
Once rehab is completed, with your doctor’s approval you may want to undertake daily brisk walking, riding a bike, or other moderately-active forms of exercise to help strengthen your heart. A 30-minute workout three or four times a week would be a good goal to work toward. The main idea is to try to get some form of activity into your daily routine, especially if you were previously sedentary, and work toward making your overall health better than ever.