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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. Follow these guidelines for home care and lifestyle changes.

Home care

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don’t skip doses.

  • 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.

  • 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 if you are feeling overwhelmed by these feelings.

  • If you are having chest pain, call 911 for an ambulance. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

  • Ask your family members to learn CPR.

  • 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.


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 the amount of fat and cholesterol in your diet

  • Cutting back on the amount of sodium (salt) in your food, especially if you have high blood pressure

  • Eating more fresh vegetables and fruits

  • Eating lean proteins such as fish, poultry, and legumes (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 that you eat


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

  • Dancing

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.

  • Stop smoking. Sign up for a stop-smoking program to make it more likely for you to quit for good.

  • Learn to manage stress. Stress management techniques to help you deal with stress in your home and work life.


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 is not relieved by medicine.

  • 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: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/6/2014
© 2000-2015 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.