When Can I Resume Work After A Heart Attack?

Question: When can I resume work after a heart attack?

Answer: The intent among the medical community is to have all individuals return to doing the things that they enjoy doing, and in some instances that may include work. It is very, very important -- and actually one of the things we focus on very quickly after someone has experienced a heart attack, and prior to leaving the hospital -- discussions about what a person does both in the workplace, the degree of physical exertion that their work requires, and also the things that they enjoy doing during leisure time. That includes the resumption of normal sexual activity among other things that require the heart to work a little bit harder.

A person that has a relatively sedentary job many times can return within the next several weeks. We don't recommend that someone return immediately, predominately because we'd like to give them an opportunity to think a little bit about prevention, something that is very, very important and requires time, consideration, careful thought, and many times, inclusion in a cardiac rehabilitation program where a person is taught about lifestyle changes, exercise, changing their diet to one that is heart healthy, that includes a limited amount of saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol. It also includes recommendations about daily activity, not just to help someone recover from their heart attack, but also to reduce the likelihood of subsequent heart attacks. We talk about weight reduction, how that is done by changing lifestyle, not by means where there's a rapid weight reduction, but by means where there is lifestyle change. And that requires time and careful thought.

For patients that have a more vigorous type of job description that requires heavy physical exertion, that may require four to six weeks before a physician feels comfortable in allowing someone to return to work. And then at times, with certain parameters that are considered safe parameters for someone that is returning to work as well as their employer that is trying to make the right decision on his or her employee's behalf.

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