Convalescing/recovering after a heart attack Recovery from a heart attack can be a slow and gradual process. It may involve liaising with various types of health care professionals, including doctors, dieticians, nurses, physio therapists, pharmacists, and personal trainers. The patients’ recovery will generally start in hospital, and then continue at home. Physical activity Experts say it is vital that a recovering heart attack patient try to stay active. Exercise is a crucial part of recovery, as it strengthens the heart muscles, and significantly lowers the risk of another heart attack. Most patients will be given some kind of exercise program while they are still in hospital. It is important that any exercise program is devised by an exercise specialist who is part of the patient’s health professional team. Most initial exercise programs will be about 12 weeks long. Most heart attack patients are able to go back to their normal everyday domestic activities. Of course, this will depend on the patient’s physical and mental state. Doctors advise most patients to take it easy at first. Going back to work When a heart attack patient can go back to work depends on various factors: The severity of the heart attack, the type of job, the physical status of the patient after the heart attack, the financial situation of the patient, etc. Some people are eager to get back to work for various reasons. It is vital that people do not rush back – a proper recovery period is needed to prevent recurrences. Patients should be guided by their doctors’ advice. Heart attack and depression According to the National Health Service (NHS), UK, about one fifth of heart attack patients go on to have a major episode of depression not long afterwards. Another quarter of all heart attack patients experience minor depression or depressed moods. The patient should understand that it is common to feel depressed or anxious after a heart attack. The worry about being able to cope, losing one’s job or work status, are contributory factors. The severity of the depression can influence the patient’s rehabilitation – making recovery a slower process. Heart attack patients who feel depressed or anxious should tell their doctors immediately. Driving In the UK it is advised that a person refrains from driving for at least 4 weeks after his/her heart attack. Most countries will not require that the patient does another driving test. Patients who have other conditions should check with their car insurance company to make sure they are still covered before they start driving again. In the UK anybody who drives large goods vehicles has to tell the DVLA about their heart attack. In most cases they will not be allowed to drive for six weeks, and will only be able to do so after passing a basic health and fitness test. Erectile dysfunction after a heart attack Approximately one third of all men who have a heart attack suffer from erectile dysfunction – they have problems getting, or sustaining an erection. Experts say that sexual activity does not raise a person’s risk of having another heart attack. It is important that men with erectile dysfunction talk to their doctors – in the majority of cases certain medications, such as Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Cyalis (tadalafil), and Levitra (vardenafil) are very effective at restoring erectile function. Other treatments are also available.