3 Stages of Exercise for Patients after a Heart Attack

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Older couple.Heart attack recovery can be a very challenging process. Heart attack patients need to make lifestyle changes to prevent future attacks from happening. Many people have the misconception that exercise should be avoided after a heart attack, since your heart was injured and needs to recover slowly. In fact, the opposite is actually true.

Monitored exercise during cardiac rehabilitation is essential to strengthening your heart. However, this process can be dangerous if exercise is not supervised. Heart attack patients are encouraged to take the following steps, under the care of their doctor, to slowly build their heart muscle back up:

1. Starting Slow

Your heart will be weak immediately after your attack, but beginning to exercise is the first step of becoming healthy. This will likely be performed in a controlled setting in a rehab clinic. Your doctor may have you take an exercise stress test to see how well your heart is functioning. From there, you will exercise gently for several weeks to begin strengthening your heart.

2. Monitored Rehab

Once your doctor has seen that your heart is doing well enough to continue, you will begin to exercise more vigorously in a cardiac rehab center. As you get stronger, your care will be managed by physical therapists who can advise you on the best ways to progress. This process can continue several weeks after your heart attack.

3. Exercising on Your Own

Once enough time has passed and you become strong enough, you will be free to exercise on your own. Care should be taken not to overdo it though, even if you are feeling strong. Your heart will still be damaged from your heart attack, and all exercise should be performed carefully. Adopting other new habits, such as adjusting your diet, can also benefit your heart health.