Can you live a long life after a heart attack?

Published: Thursday, November 3, 2022

If you’ve experienced a heart attack, it’s only natural to wonder about your health and your future. But rest assured: In many cases, people can live long and full lives after a heart attack.

In the days and weeks following a heart attack, you’ll be coached through ways to strengthen your heart and protect it from future damage. Carefully following the guidance your medical providers offer is an important part of staying healthy and living a hearty life.

How Do You Strengthen Your Heart After a Heart Attack?

This is a great question! When you’re recovering after a heart attack, exercising may be the last thing on your mind. But physical activity will play a vitally important role in getting you back to your best health.

Just as you use exercise to strengthen muscles in your arms, it’s also needed to strengthen your heart muscle. In the days and weeks following a cardiovascular event, you’ll be encouraged to get up and moving in a safe way.

Resuming exercise after a heart attack (or becoming physically active if you weren’t before) requires a careful approach. Participating in cardiac rehab, also called cardiopulmonary rehab, can help you become more active while keeping eye on your heart health—and it greatly improves your chances of living a longer life.

During cardiac rehab sessions, you will participate in physical activity while under the careful supervision of medical professionals and equipment that monitors your heart. You’ll also participate in educational sessions which help with knowledge regarding physical activity counseling, nutritional counseling, weight management, risk factor reduction/secondary prevention and psychosocial support.

How Can You Prevent a Second Heart Attack?

To prevent another heart attack, you’ll want to carefully follow your providers’ guidance and take steps to make lifestyle changes. Start here:

  • Take all medications as prescribed.
    Don’t discontinue any medication or change your dose without talking with your medical provider first.
  • Continue to have follow-up visits with your medical providers as advised.
    These visits will allow your doctors to keep an eye on your health and monitor your blood pressure, pulse and heart rate, follow up on the heart pump function and adjust your medication to maintain optimal cardiovascular health.
  • Keep an eye on your numbers.
    High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and elevated blood sugar are all risk factors for heart attack and other cardiovascular health issues. If you have these risk factors, it’s especially important to effectively manage them after a heart attack. If traditional treatment options aren’t effectively managing your condition, the Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids at Georgia Heart Institute offers specialized care options that can help.
  • Be physically active.
    Aim for at least 150 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity each week through walking, while allowing the cardiac rehab program to guide you in the progression of exercise intensity.
  • Listen to your body.
    If you notice any concerning symptoms, reach out to your cardiologist or primary care provider about what you’re experiencing. If you have heart attack symptoms, seek emergency care.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
    Fill your plate with lots of fruits and vegetables, supplemented by moderate portions of lean proteins, like chicken or fish, and whole grains. Limit your intake of saturated fat, sodium and added sugar. Your physician may recommend the Mediterranean Diet to help improve your cardiovascular health.
  • Don’t smoke.
    If you do smoke, stop. Smoking is a significant risk factor for heart attacks. Talk with your medical provider about a smoking cessation strategy.
  • Prioritize quality sleep.
    Sleep is connected with optimal health, so make sure you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, though those over age 60 may be OK with seven to eight hours. 

Next Steps

When you’re recovering after a heart attack, you can benefit from cardiac rehab. The Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation program at Northeast Georgia Medical Center can help you strengthen your heart and prevent future heart attacks.