Attack (Myocardial Infarction)
Life After Your Heart Attack
Out of Hospital
Before going home, you will be given instructions on desired lifestyle changes. Chief among these are: quit smoking (If you were a smoker), watch your diet (avoid fatty and fried foods; add more soluble fiber, vegetables and fruit, etc.). If you suffer from high blood pressure, you may be asked to restrict your salt intake. Initially, you will be asked to take a very light meal (1200 calories).
The healing process typically takes from three to six weeks. In the old days, heart patients remained in the hospital for six weeks. But the modern trend is to get the heart patients out of their bed and get them to their home sooner. Lengthy bed rest and the resultant inactivity are believed to increase the risk of pulmonary embolism and weaken the body's muscles.
Modern cardiac rehabilitation includes not only the physical care, but also the emotional, psychological, social, vocational and practical aspects of the person's life. So, we have a truly wholistic perspective here. We need to rehabilitate the mind, body and the spirit. And the rehabilitation involves the family members too as they play a key role in the process!
The healing process starts as soon as the blood flow was restored. White blood corpuscles enter the damaged heart muscle and remove the dead (heart) cells. Gradually, scar tissue forms on the area of your heart that was deprived of oxygen during the attack. This scar tissue is different than the normal heart tissue. It does not contract like normal heart muscle or adds to the heart's pumping action. The amount of tissue that is injured depends on the size of the area that is supplied by the blocked artery and how long the artery stayed blocked. If the artery was not totally blocked, or if a clot-busting drug was given soon, damage may be minimal.
Sometimes the scar tissue might interfere with the electrical signals from the heart's natural pacemaker and cause an arrhythmia. It is insensitive to pain, so it will not cause angina.
It is normal for you to feel very tired for the first one or two weeks after your heart attack. It takes time to rebuild your strength. Take it easy and get plenty of rest. Slowly resume your normal activities. Space your activities. Take time to rest if you get tired. Do not lift, push or pull heavy objects until you get clearance from your doctor to do these activities. You may be able to drive after the first week. Check with your doctor first.