Living with Heart Disease

Living with heart disease

As you recover from a heart incident, you will gradually resume daily activities such as household chores, work and travel. Everyone is different and recovery varies from person to person.

You should stop and rest if during activity you experience:

  • central chest pain, tightness or pressure that may radiate to your jaw or arms
  • shortness of breath
  • excessive fatigue
  • dizziness, fainting, nausea or sweatiness.

Follow the normal routine for managing angina. If symptoms persist for 15 minutes, dial 000 for help.

Note: These are general guidelines only and must not replace specific advice from your doctor about your particular circumstances. If you are unsure or have any other questions, contact your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team.

STARTING TO EXERCISE

The first six weeks: Walking
You can begin gentle exercise in the first six weeks after you return home, and gradually build up your fitness level. For a day-to-day exercise routine, follow the suggested walking program below.

Walking is the safest form of exercise for the first few weeks. It’s a good way to gain fitness in the early stage of your recovery.

The walking times outlined here are a guide only. Each individual will progress at their own rate, so you may want to slow down or speed up, as it suits you.

It is also advisable to start cardiac rehabilitation exercise at your nearest hospital or health care centre soon after you leave hospital.

Week

Time

Times per day

Intensity/pace

1 10-15 mins 2

light

2

15-20 mins 2

light

3

20-25 mins 1

light/moderate

4

25-30 mins 1

light/moderate

5

35-40 mins 1

moderately hard

6 40-45 mins 1

moderately hard

 

From seven weeks onward: A variety of exercise
Once you are over your convalescence, you can start to include swimming, golf and other activities. The aim is to do something every day.

Contact the North Shore Cardiovascular Education Centre who provide exercise, education and support for people with heart disease, and those recovering from heart surgery or a heart event. Tel: 02 9463 1704.

RETURNING TO WORK

Returning to work will largely depend on your type of heart condition and how quickly you recover. Your local doctor or cardiologist will advise when you are ready to return to work, and to what extend you will be able to work.

Here are some practical steps to follow:

  • Consult your local doctor or cardiologist first
  • Build up hours gradually
  • Do light duties at first – modify heavy jobs with wheels, pulleys
  • Take all breaks
  • Avoid peak-hour travel to and from work
  • Avoid stressful deadlines
DRIVING

Always consult your GP before you resume driving. If you drive before the recommended time, you may find that your insurance policy will not cover you in the case of an accident. We recommend you visit Austroads for their latest Assessing Fitness to Drive publication

Here are some guidelines for resuming driving, depending on the cardiac event or procedure.

Condition Driving guidelines
Heart attack Should not drive for two weeks after an uncomplicated heart attack (acute myocardial infarction). 
Angina

 

May drive if angina is stable. 
Angioplasty and/or stent

 

Should not drive for two days after angioplasty/stent. 
Atrial fibrillation

 

Should not drive after an acute episode causing dizziness or fainting until condition is stabilised.

 

Cardiomyopathy

 

May drive if no symptoms on moderate exertion.

 

Cardiac arrest

 

Should not drive. Driver Licensing Authority will require a certificate from specialist before permitting a return to driving when underlying cause is treated.
Cardiac defibrillator

 

Should not drive. The Driver Licensing Authority may issue a conditional licence on advice of a specialist physician. 
Cardiac pacemaker

 

Should not drive for two weeks after insertion of a pacemaker. 

TRAVEL

Bus and train travel can be stressful. Try to arrange alternatives for your first few weeks at home, and avoid peak-hour traffic. The Airline Medical Unit restricts international air travel for a minimum of 14 days after your heart attack. Domestic travel is possible but it is important to consult your cardiologist before you book any flights.