I’ve recently suffered a heart attack – does this mean my life as an active person is over?

Summit4CAD Founder Jon Patrick Hyde as he trains for Haleakala

This is really a difficult question. The truth is that depending on the severity of your heart attack and the amount of damage caused to your heart tissue; you may be looking at a greatly diminished quality of life. CAD is the leading cause of early disability retirement in adults in the United States.

The reason that surviving a heart attack may mean a significant change in your ability to be active is simple : If your heart has been damaged (meaning there are areas of dead tissue that will not regenerate) – your heart’s ability to pump blood is greatly affected IN THE AREA that your heart was damaged, but the rest of your heart will continue to function as before.

THE DANGER IN THIS IS: that if the damaged area(s) get out of sync with the parts of your heart that are functioning correctly (there are 4 chambers of your heart that have to function together to effectively pump blood) – your heart could loose the ability to pump blood.

LIKEWISE – there are “electrical nodes” placed in different areas around your heart that when activated cause your heart muscle to contract (this is what keeps everything working in order) – think about the firing sequence of spark plugs in your car’s engine. If the damaged/dead area of your heart contains one of these very important nodes – your heart can easily get out of sync because the “firing order” of the electrical impulses that cause your heart to function correctly can get out of order.

This is called an “Arrhythmia” and it is VERY DANGEROUS.

Arrhythmias can become deadly.  They are often caused when a damaged heart beats faster (regular activities can cause this in some post-heart attack patients if their heart damage is significant).

I was facing this same possible reality when I was sent home after my hospital stay. I did exactly what my doctor ordered (rest, relaxation, no stress, no getting my heart worked up, no strenuous activities, the AHA (American Heart Association) diet, and take the medication he prescribed to me which included a medication that slowed my heart rate so it could better heal.

I did these things and when combined with the lifestyle and fitness choices I’d made during the course of my life I walked away from my Widowmaker heart attack experience with no residual heart damage and a healthier, more active lifestyle.

All of this will depend on what your doctor(s) find when they evaluate your heart post recovery. This typically is done through a diagnostic test called an echocardiogram. This test will give your doctor(s) the information they need to determine what activity level is safe for you.

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