Many things may change after you return home from the hospital. You may feel tired for a while; you may need a new daily routine to take your medication. Your diet, amount of exercise, need for rest, family roles (e.g., making meals, cleaning the house) may change. Remember — it takes time to recover and learn to live with coronary artery disease.

Leaving the hospital

Medical questions and care

  • Before you leave the hospital, get the phone number of a healthcare professional you can call with questions or worries.
  • Make an appointment with your family doctor within a week or two of leaving hospital.
  • Get medical help if you have symptoms that worry you (e.g., angina that gets worse; dizziness; shortness of breath, especially if at rest; irregular heartbeats).
  • Write down your questions and ask them! Knowing what you can and cannot do can help you worry less.

Your daily life

  • Stay involved in your life, but don’t try to do too much! Spread activities out during the day. Rest if you get tired.
  • Do things that give you pleasure and make you happy. Being happy is good for the heart.
  • Tell others what kind of help you need and do not need. Do not let them do everything for you.
  • See family and friends. If you aren’t up to seeing family and friends, keep in touch by phone or email which may be less demanding on you.
  • Tell your friends and family about how your heart disease is changing your life. Help them understand your feelings.

Physical activity

  • Ask your doctor about the amount of exercise or physical activity that is right for you. Increase your activity bit by bit. You may need to wait up to six weeks before you can start cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Walk every day unless you are told by your cardiologist not to. Walking is a great way to get stronger. It helps your heart and your moods and feelings improve.
Back to work

Returning to work is an important part of living with heart disease. Most people with coronary artery disease go back to work one to three months after leaving the hospital.

Your cardiologist will tell you if it is safe to do your job, and when you can get back to work.

Some people believe that a physical job that makes demands on your body isn’t safe. This is usually not true. Jobs that involve some physical activity are often better for the heart than desk jobs.

You may also think you should retire early. It is important to take your time and talk about it over with your healthcare team, so that your decision is based on facts – not fears – about your heart condition.

Tips to make returning to work easier

  • Talk with your doctor about any fears or worries you have about going back to work and when you should do it.
  • Tell your cardiologist you want to return to work bit by bit – not all at once.
    • Start with half days and build up to a normal schedule over two to four weeks.
    • Don’t do anything difficult or hard until you are feeling strong again.
  • Talk to your healthcare team if you are having trouble paying attention, concentrating or remembering things.
  • Rest when you are tired.
  • Make sure to take care of yourself at work.
    • Find heart-healthy ways to eat at work.
    • Try to manage your stress as best as you can.
    • Take breaks if you are tired.
    • Use day timers, calendars and checklists to help you remember.
    • Do the hardest work early in the day and avoid distractions and interruptions.
  • Get involved in cardiac rehabilitation. It can make it easier to get back to work.

Check with your doctor to be sure you are OK to drive or travel by air, since some conditions can restrict you for a while. Commercial drivers may need to wait up to three months after a heart attack or heart surgery before returning to work.

  • Talk to your doctor if you have any fears or concerns about driving
  • Listen to your body. Avoid driving and rest when you are tired.
Related information

Living Well with Heart Disease (PDF)


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