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Discharge Instructions for Heart Attack

You have had a heart attack (acute myocardial infarction). A heart attack occurs when a vessel that sends blood to your heart suddenly becomes blocked. This causes your heart not to work as well as it should. Follow these guidelines for home care and lifestyle changes.

Home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses. Talk with your healthcare provider if your medicines aren't working for you. Together you can come up with another treatment plan.

  • Remember that recovery after a heart attack takes time. Plan to rest for at least 4 to 8 weeks while you recover. Then return to normal activity when your doctor says it’s OK.

  • Ask your doctor about joining a heart rehabilitation program. This can help strengthen your heart and lungs and give you more energy and confidence.

  • Tell your doctor if you are feeling depressed. Feelings of sadness are common after a heart attack. But it is important to speak to someone or seek counseling if you are feeling overwhelmed by these feelings.

  • Call 911 right away if you have chest pain or pain that goes to your shoulder, neck, or back. Don't drive yourself to the hospital.

  • Ask your family members to learn CPR. This is an important skill that can save lives when it's needed.

  • Learn to take your own blood pressure and pulse. Keep a record of your results. Ask your doctor when you should seek emergency medical attention. He or she will tell you which blood pressure reading is dangerous.

Lifestyle changes

Your heart attack might have been caused by cardiovascular disease. Your healthcare provider will work with you to make changes to your lifestyle. This will help the heart disease from getting worse. These changes will most likely be a combination of diet and exercise.


Your healthcare provider will tell you what changes you need to make to your diet. You may need to see a registered dietitian for help with these diet changes. These changes may include:

  • Cutting back on how much fat and cholesterol you eat

  • Cutting back on how much salt (sodium) you eat, especially if you have high blood pressure

  • Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits

  • Eating lean proteins such as fish, poultry, beans, and peas, and eating less red meat and processed meats

  • Using low-fat dairy products

  • Using vegetable and nut oils in limited amounts

  • Limiting how many sweets and processed foods such as chips, cookies, and baked goods you eat

  • Limiting how often you eat out. And when you do eat out, making better food choices.

  • Not eating fried or greasy foods, or foods high in saturated fat


Your healthcare provider may tell you to get more exercise if you haven't been physically active. Depending on your case, your provider may recommend that you get moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 40 minutes each day, and for at least 3 to 4 days each week. A few examples of moderate to vigorous activity include:

  • Walking at a brisk pace, about 3 to 4 miles per hour

  • Jogging or running

  • Swimming or water aerobics

  • Hiking

  • Dancing

  • Martial arts

  • Tennis

  • Riding a bicycle or stationary bike

Other changes

Your healthcare provider may also recommend that you:

  • Lose weight. If you are overweight or obese, your provider will work with you to lose extra pounds. Making diet changes and getting more exercise can help. A good goal is to lose your 10% of your body weight in one year.

  • Stop smoking. Sign up for a stop-smoking program to make it more likely for you to quit for good. You can join a stop-smoking support group. Or ask your doctor about nicotine replacement products.

  • Learn to manage stress. Stress management techniques to help you deal with stress in your home and work life. This will help you feel better emotionally and ease the strain on your heart.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to seek medical advice

Call 911 right away if you have:

  • Chest pain that goes to your neck, jaw, back, or shoulder

  • Shortness of breath

Otherwise, call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Feeling of irregular heartbeat or fast pulse.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fetterman, Anne, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Gandelman, Glenn, MD, MPH
Last Review Date: 10/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.