After a heart attack: where can you find support?
After you leave hospital, it’s great to know there’s ongoing support to help you keep your heart healthy in the longer term. Here’s your guide.
The NHS’s Cardiac Rehabilitation programme is usually offered to patients in the first two to three months after they come out of hospital. Most will offer ongoing support after you leave the programme – for example, the numbers of rehabilitation nurses you can call with any questions. You can ask about medication, lifestyle changes, exercise and other ways to live a healthier life.
Your GP and specialist doctor
It’s a good idea to see your GP within the first two to four weeks after leaving hospital, and then follow your GP’s advice about your next appointment. With your consultant, appointments are tailored to the individual patient. Most people will see a cardiologist at least once after being discharged, usually between 3-6 months after going home, but some people may need to be seen sooner or more often. You will be told before going home, roughly when you will next be seen.
If you have any questions about your medication, you can also ask your local pharmacist. You may be on tablets for the first time, so it’s not surprising if you have some questions about your medication.
NHS services: stop smoking, exercise and weight loss
Being on a cardiac rehab programme provides you with a fantastic service free of charge, and you can ring them for advice throughout the week or outside sessions if you need to.
Ask at your GP’s surgery if there are any services on prescription available to you. For example, free membership to a slimming group for a couple of months, or a consultation with a fitness advisor. There may be a weight loss clinic in your area you could be referred to.
Ask your GP, pharmacist or cardic rehabilitation team about smoking cessation clinics. Visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk for lots of helpful information on giving up cigarettes, or make a free call to Smokefree on 0800 022 4332.
Join a support group
There are lots of heart support groups nationwide. Ask at your GP’s surgery, hospital or pharmacy for details of your nearest group. The British Heart Foundation is affiliated with almost 300 local support groups around the country and also has a Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311. Heart UK also have a helpline on 0845 450 5988.
What’s available privately?
If you need extra help and can afford to pay for it, there are all sorts of services out there. You could join a slimming club to help you lose weight. You could also join a local leisure club, sign up with a personal trainer or join an exercise group – but make sure the instructors know about your condition and are able to tailor your exercise to your abilities. You could also look for a BACPR (British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation) accredited exercise specialist if possible.
‘My support group gave me a new lease of life’
‘After my heart attack four years ago I went to sessions at my local support group twice a week. One of the ladies who ran the groups noticed how much I enjoyed the exercise, and encouraged me to train as an instructor. I qualified and now teach three Zumba dance classes a week. I now feel better and happier than before my heart attack. I’d recommend anyone who’s had a heart attack joins their nearest support group.’
Bella Smith, 58, from Yorkshire