Get fit for life!
After a heart attack, it’s important to be physically active. Exercise can make your heart stronger, reduce your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels, and help you to lose weight. All of these factors will reduce your risk of having another heart attack or episode of unstable angina.
Physical activity can also reduce your chances of arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat) of having a stroke or fall, lift your mood, and help you manage stress.1
How to start exercising after a heart attack
While you’re in hospital you’ll usually be encouraged to start moving around a couple of days after your condition is stable and your doctors feel it is safe (how long this takes varies for each person). Unstable angina will have to be under control before you start doing any exercising.
When you first go home from hospital, you’ll probably be advised to get lots of rest and do gentle exercise, such as light walking and climbing the stairs a couple of times during the day.
How cardiac rehab can help 2
You’ll need to get a sign-off from your doctor before you join a rehabilitation course. You may be asked to go to cardiac rehabilitation sessions at your hospital as an out-patient. It’s important to go – exercise-based cardiac rehab can reduce death in people with coronary heart disease by about 27 per cent.
The cardiac rehab team will help you to get moving – showing you the kinds of exercises you can do and supporting you to make lifestyle changes. They will also support you with any questions that you may have about your medication.
It’s important to get moving in a gradual way, taking into account your fitness levels before your illness. Rehabilitation classes can help you plan and cope with any worries.
Fitting exercise into your life
Being active is not necessarily about going to the gym. Moving more in your daily life, by taking stairs not escalators – walking to the local shops, and other activities such as walking, dancing, gardening, swimming or golf are all good ways to exercise.
A good place to start is with gentle walks on the flat – ideally take someone with you for company and confidence. Once you feel like trying other activities, like swimming or golf, talk to your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team to check you’re ready for it. The same goes for sex, which is no more dangerous after a heart attack than other fairly energetic types of activity.3 Some people feel well enough to pick up their sex life after about four weeks, but everyone’s different. As always, if you’re worried, ask your doctor.
How are you doing?
If you’re chatting away as you exercise, and breathing as normal, you may not be working hard enough. But if you are sweating more heavily than normal, and feeling nauseous and light-headed, you’re over-doing it, and need to pull back a bit. 4
FIND OUT MORE:
Exercise can help you lose weight alongside a healthy diet. Read our healthy eating tips.
3https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/heart-risk-from-sex-is-small/, Accessed September 2018
4https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/recovery/#reducing-your-risk, Accessed September 2018