Recovering from a Heart Attack or Heart Surgery

Recovering from Heart Attack or Heart Surgery

Recovering from a Heart Attack or Heart Surgery

When a woman comes home from the hospital after a heart attack or after heart surgery, it can be difficult to estimate what she might be expected to do once she gets home. Many women are impatient to resume their usual activities at home or may feel pressured to get back to their jobs.

Changing your lifestyle while recovering

  • Take it easy. Heart attack patients are usually told not to return to work for six weeks, however, women often start doing household chores sooner. It is easy to forget that housework can be heavy physical work. For example, lifting a wet, queen-sized sheet out of the washing machine is like lifting more than 15 pounds. This is not recommended for recovering patients!
  • Delegate household chores to your family.
  • Accept help from your friends, family and community. Look to your close friends and family for support.
  • If you can, spend money on things like housecleaning help or nutritious, low-fat frozen meals.
  • Eat several small meals a day rather than one big meal late in the day. Big meals put a heavy load on your blood circulation system. Rest after meals. Pace yourself!
  • Take lots of time to do all your activities.
  • Rest for 20 to 30 minutes, twice a day.
  • Sometimes it is hard to give up responsibility for your household tasks. Remind yourself that you are getting better and that your family managed somehow when you were in the hospital.

Your heart attack or heart surgery may have led you to make some healthy lifestyle changes. You may be:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Starting a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercising more
  • Achieving/maintaining a healthy weight
  • Learning to manage stress

Because of these changes, chances are you will feel better with time. Heart patients should return to productive, energetic lives once they have recovered.

Get all the information

  • Talk to your cardiologist or primary care physician about your recovery at home. Ask what activities you can do, and when. Your physician can give you an exercise test, where you will walk on a treadmill or pedal a stationary bike, while the physician monitors your heart. This test can help your physician decide what level of activity you are ready to begin. This exercise test may be completed before you enroll in cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Learn about your condition. Read the educational materials available from your hospital, the American Heart Association*, the library or a health information center.
  • Share information with your family so that they understand what heart disease is. Tell them about your physical limitations.
  • Ask your healthcare providers about cardiac rehabilitation.

Having sex after a heart attack or heart surgery

It is safe to have sex again when you can be physically active without chest pain. This is usually four to six weeks into recovery, but discuss this with your physician. Tell your partner to be slow and gentle, with lots of cuddling and touching. Choose a time when you are relaxed and comfortable. Do not have sex if you are upset, tired, anxious or after a big meal. These all put extra stress on your blood circulation system.

Taking care of your feelings

Having a heart attack or heart surgery is frightening. Often a life-altering event can change your perspective of your health and vitality. It is not uncommon for women to report being depressed afterwards. In fact, 25 to 30 percent of heart patients become depressed during recovery.

Talk with your physician if you feel depressed. Your physician may refer you to support groups for heart disease survivors or refer you to counseling. You may even need medical therapy for depression and stress in certain cases.


Six niche centers within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offer patient focused, specialized care, making the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute a leading destination for both initial diagnoses and second opinions. These niche programs include physicians, nurses and a range of multidisciplinary specialists working with patients to navigate the complex health care system, ensuring continuity of care and a seamless shift from inpatient to outpatient services and ultimately home.

Contact Us
To schedule an appointment or inquire about services at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, please call 312.NM.HEART (664.3278).

Cardiovascular Clinical Trials
For information regarding cardiovascular clinical trials:

Referring Physicians
Open communication and cooperation with referring physicians is a critical component of achieving high-quality care and minimizing the challenges that come with treating cardiovascular conditions. For physician-to-physician consultation regarding the best patient care, please contact the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312.NM.HEART (664.3278).

Six niche centers within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offer patient focused, specialized care, making the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute a leading destination for both initial diagnoses and second opinions. These niche programs include physicians, nurses and a range of multidisciplinary specialists working with patients to navigate the complex health care system, ensuring continuity of care and a seamless shift from inpatient to outpatient services and ultimately home.

Contact Us
To schedule an appointment or inquire about services at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, please call 847.53.HEART (534.3278).

Cardiovascular Clinical Trials
For information regarding cardiovascular clinical trials:

Six niche centers within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offer patient focused, specialized care, making the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute a leading destination for both initial diagnoses and second opinions. These niche programs include physicians, nurses and a range of multidisciplinary specialists working with patients to navigate the complex health care system, ensuring continuity of care and a seamless shift from inpatient to outpatient services and ultimately home.

Contact Us
To schedule an appointment or inquire about services at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital or Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, please call 630.232.0280

Cardiovascular Clinical Trials
For information regarding cardiovascular clinical trials:

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