10 best things you can do after a heart attack

Fruits for healthy diet
Fruits for healthy diet

You may have returned home after a heart attack feeling shocked and uncertain about the future, but there are things you can do to help you feel better. Try our top 10 ideas:1

1. Sign up to Cardiac Rehabilitation

Ask your doctor about cardio rehabilitation today, and get signed up as soon as you’re well enough. If you go along to all your sessions – one to three a week, over six to 10 weeks – you’ll reduce your cardiac risk of another heart attack by a third over the next two years.You will also get guidance on medicinces, lifestyle and excercise and get an opportunity to meet patients in a similar situation.

Find out more about the benefits of Cardiac Rehab

2. Get to know your medication

Suddenly having to take lots of drugs can be confusing but if you know what each one does, it helps you stay motivated to take them, so you reap the benefits. The British Heart Foundation’s free booklet Medicines For My Heart is a good source of information. 

Find out more about your medication

3. Take a 10-minute stroll 

Two weeks after you leave hospital, it’s quite normal to be able to do 10 minutes of walking, twice a day, as long as your GP, cardiac nurse or exercise physiologist says it’s okay. 2 You can build up to 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking (getting slightly out of breath) every day.

Find out what exercise can do for you

4. Ban smoking at home 

Tell anyone who smokes to do it outside and call your GP, pharmacist, cardic rehabilitation team or the NHS Smokefree Helpline on 0800 022 4332 this week. You’re up to four times more likely to give up successfully3 if you use a combination of aids from the NHS Stop Smoking Services

Remind yourself why giving up smoking makes sense here

5. Give yourself a (healthy) treat You may well be feeling anxious or low – or both – right now. This is perfectly normal after a heart attack so be kind to yourself. Pleasure is a great antidote to anxiety and stress so do something enjoyable every day, even if it’s just taking a relaxing bath or reading a good book.

Need ideas to be kind to yourself? Read this

6. Try this daily stress-buster

Sit comfortably. Become aware of your body and breath – breathing out slowly and completely, and breathing in gently and naturally. As your breathing gets slower, become aware of your body from your shoulders down to your feet, letting any tension in each part slip away. In your mind, focus on the phrase, ‘I am calm and relaxed.’ Do this for five minutes. Then take in a good breath, wiggle your fingers and toes, stretch and open your eyes. 

Find other ways to manage stress here

7. Eat well

Eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, limit red meat to twice a week, swap butter for low-fat spread or olive oil, go for low-fat dairy products and eat more oily fish such as salmon or mackerel. Eat a piece of fruit at breakfast, and a bowl of made chunky vegetable soup for lunch. Eat fewer processed foods – they’re surprisingly high in saturated fat and salt – both bad news for your heart. 4

Find out more about a heart-healthy diet here

8. Make a ‘feel-good’ list

Before you go to sleep every night, write down one good thing about your day. Some research suggests that being appreciative of the positive things in life and keeping a gratitude journal may reduce your risk of dying from a heart-related event. 5

9. Get a friendship fix

Call or meet up with a friend or loved one who lifts your spirits at least twice a week. Maybe go through old photos together, ask them to tell you about the funniest things they’ve heard lately, or rent a DVD you both enjoy.


Boost your motivation to make those lifestyle changes with our top tips.

1Mambuya W: ‘Cardiac rehabilitation past, present and future: an overview’. Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2012;2(1):38-49.

2https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/recovery/#cardiac-rehabilitation, Accessed November 2018

3https://www.nhs.uk/smokefree/help-and-advice, Accessed November 2018

4https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/, Accessed November 2018

5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4927423/, Accessed November 2018

6https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-matters-magazine/medical/risk-factors, Accessed November 2018