Heart attack - your questions answered
We answer your burning questions about your heart attack and recovery.
Will I have to give up all my treats?
The good news is that the only thing doctors advocate giving up completely is smoking, and there’s plenty of support to do so. You do need to make lifestyle changes, but it’s important to be able to stick to healthy new habits you create. You can still have your favourite foods but in moderation. For example, limit red meat to a couple of times a week. A glass of wine is fine but binge drinking isn’t.
How quickly can I get back to doing what's important to me?
You cardiologist and cardiac rehabilitation team will be best placed to advise you on this based on any individual considerations. This varies between individuals, but six weeks is a general guideline. Build up slowly, taking advice from your rehab nurse, or other health professionals. If you are workings, it may be possible to negotiate with your employer to go back to work part-time initially, gradually increasing to a full week as your energy and confidence return. If your job was physically demanding, it can take longer than six weeks.
Is sex safe?
As a general rule, it is fine to have sex again once you feel well enough, but start gently. To reduce the risk of chest pain, avoid sex after a heavy meal and if you have GTN (glyceryl trinitrate) spray for angina relief, keep it nearby. If you’re a man and have problems getting an erection after a heart attack, it may be down to medication such as beta blockers, so talk to your doctor.
How soon can I drive?
Some people who’ve had a heart attack followed by a successful angioplasty – a procedure that widens arteries – will be able to drive after a week; others may have to wait a month. Check with your doctor.
Is it my fault?
There are lots of risk factors for heart disease. While you can’t change your age or your genes, other things such as smoking and a high-fat diet you can change. The most positive and practical approach is to look at what you can do from today to improve your heart health. Things like stopping smoking, eating more healthily, being more active can make a difference.
Ask your cardiologist about a cardiac rehab programme, where you can get advice and support from a dietitian, physiotherapist, cardiac nurse and other health professionals. They will also support you with any questions that you may have about your medication.
FIND OUT MORE:
Find out how to stay on track with lifestyle changes like giving up smoking.
1https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/recovery/, Accessed September 2018