How to prevent a future heart attack

Preventing another heart attack by healthy diet
Preventing another heart attack by healthy diet

It’s understandable to worry about having a second heart attack – but there are steps you can take to minimise the risk. 

You do need to change your lifestyle in order to reduce your risk of another heart attack. That’s because whatever treatment you’ve had, the factors that caused the first one will still be present if you stick to your old habits. 

You can see your heart attack as a wake-up call to improve your lifestyle.

What happened in the first place?

Understanding what caused your heart attack or angina can help you alter your lifestyle. If you felt too overwhelmed to take in the information given to you in hospital, take time gradually to build up your knowledge about what causes a heart attack.

Your action plan

You’ve had your treatment – now you need to take steps to deal with the underlying cause of your heart problems.

  • Take your medicines properly. Keep your medicines in a place that will remind you to take them – for example, by the kettle if you have to take them in the morning; or on your bedside if you take them at night.
  • Exercise.Take your Cardiac Rehab team’s advice on how to build up gradually, until you can manage the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, such as walking, swimming or cycling.
  • Eat healthily. Following the Mediterranean diet and losing excess pounds can help your heart health.
  • Get support. Don’t underestimate the power of your friends and family to help you stay healthy. If people close to you know what you’re trying to achieve, they’ll be able to support you.
  • Manage stress.A heart attack is a signal to take relaxation seriously. Scientists have found chronic stress can increase your chances of a second cardiac event. Stress raises blood pressure over time and may also trigger the release of high levels of platelets, which form clots.

Bust the myths and stay safe1

There are quite a few myths about what you should and shouldn’t do after a heart attack. Here’s what you really need to know:

  • Exercise is fine. In fact, exercise is a must. It’s now known that it’s vital to get moving as soon as you can – but start your exercise regime only under the guidance of your doctor or cardiac rehab team.
  • Sex isn’t a problem. Sex is unlikely to trigger another attack. You should be able to safely have sex once you’re able to walk briskly up two flights of stairs without getting chest pains or becoming out of breath – usually about four weeks after a heart attack. Be aware that 30 per cent of men experience erectile dysfunction after a heart attack. Speak to your doctor if you’re affected.
  • Driving is OK – after a break. You don’t have to inform the DVLA of your heart attack (unless you drive a heavy goods vehicle), but you should avoid driving for a month after your cardiac event, until you’re fit enough.
  • Consult your doctor before flying. National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that most people can fly safely two to three weeks after a heart attack, unless there are complications such as angina. It’s best to speak to your doctor, who can advise on your individual circumstances. 
  • Know the warning signs. Call 999 if you experience symptoms including: chest pain, pain that travels down your arms or into your neck, abdomen, back or jaw, shortness of breath, nausea, anxiety, coughing, wheezing, vomiting or light-headedness. The symptoms of a second attack may be different from the first. If you have angina, take the medication you’ve been prescribed if you have any of these symptoms – they should clear within five minutes. You can take up to three doses in 15 minutes. If you still have symptoms after that, dial 999.


Switching to a Mediterranean diet has been shown to be good for heart health. Find out more.