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Discharge Instructions for Heart Attack

You have had a heart attack. Also known as acute myocardial infarction, or AMI, a heart attack occurs when a vessel supplying the heart with blood suddenly becomes blocked. Follow these guidelines for home care and lifestyle changes.

Home Care

  • Take your medications 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 that you 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.

  • Have your cholesterol checked as your health care provider tells you to. 

Lifestyle Changes

Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease may be causing your angina. Your health care provider will work with you to change your lifestyle to help stop this disease from getting worse. Here are some things you may need to change: 

Diet

Your health care provider will give you information on changes to your diet that you may need to make. You may need to see a registered dietitian for help with the diet changes. 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  

Physical activity

Your health care provider may tell you to get more exercise if you haven't been physically active. Depending on your situation, 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

Weight management

If you are overweight or obese, your health care provider will work with you to help you lose weight and lower your BMI (body mass index) to a normal or near-normal level. Making diet changes and getting more physical activity can help. 

Smoking

If you smoke, break the smoking habit. Sign up for a stop-smoking program to make it more likely for you to quit for good. 

Stress

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

 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Call 911 right away if you have:

  • Chest pain that is not relieved by medication.

  • 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
© 2000-2014 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.