Recovery from a heart attack is a slow and gradual process. It may involve liaising with various types of healthcare professionals, including doctors, dieticians, physiotherapists, pharmacists and personal trainers. The patients’ recovery generally starts in hospital and then continues at home.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY Doctors say it is vital that a recovering heart attack patient should try to stay active. Exercise is a crucial part of recovery, as it strengthens the heart muscles and significantly lowers the risk of another heart attack. Most patients are given some kind of exercise programme while they are still in hospital. It is important that any exercise programme is devised by an exercise specialist who is part of the team looking into the patient’s health. Most heart attack patients are able to go back to their normal everyday domestic activities, depending on the patient’s physical and mental state. Doctors advise most patients to take it easy at first.

GOING BACK TO WORK How quickly a heart attack patient gets back to work depends on various factors: the severity of the heart attack, the type of job, the physical status of the patient after the heart attack, the financial situation of the patient, etc. Some people are eager to get back to work for various reasons. It is vital that patients do not rush back to work – a proper recovery period is needed to prevent recurrence. Patients should be guided by their doctors’ advice.

HEART ATTACK AND DEPRESSION About one fifth of heart attack patients go on to have a major episode of depression. Another quarter of all heart attack patients experience minor depression or depressed moods. The patient should understand that it is common to feel depressed or anxious after a heart attack. The worry about being able to cope, losing one’s job or work status are contributory factors. The severity of the depression can influence the patient’s rehabilitation – making recovery a slower process. Heart attack patients who feel depressed or anxious should inform their doctors immediately.

DRIVING It is advised that a person refrains from driving for at least four weeks after his/her heart attack. Patients who have other conditions should check with their car insurance company to make sure they are still covered before they start driving again. In most cases they will not be allowed to drive for six weeks and will only be able to do so after passing a basic health and fitness test.

ERECTILE DYSFUNCTIONS AFTER A HEART ATTACK Approximately one third of all men who have a heart attack suffer from erectile dysfunction – they have problems getting, or sustaining an erection. Experts say that sexual activity does not raise a person’s risk of having another heart attack. It is important that men with erectile dysfunction talk to their doctors – in the majority of cases certain medications are very effective at restoring erectile function. Other treatments are also available if the problem persists.