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Living with coronary heart disease

4-minute read

If you have had a heart attack or heart surgery, there are things you can do that may help you return to your normal life and activities. But if you now need to make changes to your lifestyle, there are also ways to do this to reduce your risk of experiencing further heart problems.

Cardiac rehabilitation

If you have heart surgery, a member of the cardiac rehabilitation team may visit you in hospital to give you information about your condition and the procedure that you are having. This care will usually continue after you have left hospital.

Cardiac rehabilitation can help you to recover and resume a normal life as soon as possible after having a heart attack or heart surgery. It can also be helpful for people with heart failure.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs can help you to make practical, potentially life-saving changes to the way in which you live. They can also help you and your family deal with physical, emotional or psychological issues that can occur. The right rehabilitation program can help most people to reduce their risk of further heart problems.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs complement the advice that your doctor and/or cardiologist gives you.

Once you have completed your rehabilitation program, it is important that you continue to have regular exercise and lead a healthy lifestyle. This will help to protect your heart and reduce the risk of further heart-related problems.

You can find more information about cardiac rehabilitation at www.heartfoundation.org.au.

Support groups

If you have or have had a heart condition, or if you are caring for someone with a heart condition, you might find it useful to meet other people in your area who are in a similar situation. There are a number of heart support groups around Australia that organise regular exercise sessions, such as walking groups, as well as other social activities.

Your doctor, specialist, local public hospital or the Heart Foundation may provide you with details about your nearest group.

Relationships

Coming to terms with a long-term condition such as heart disease can put a strain on you, your family and your friends. It can be difficult to talk with people about your condition, even if they are close to you. Be open about how you feel and let your family and friends know what they can do to help. But do not feel shy about telling them that you need some time to yourself.

Your sex life

If you have coronary heart disease (CHD) or you have recently had heart surgery, you may be concerned about having sex. Usually, as soon as you feel well enough, you can resume sexual activity. If you have had surgery, you will probably have to wait for six to eight weeks until the breastbone has healed.

It is important not to put any pressure or stress on your chest. If you have any warning signs of a heart attack during sex, such as breathlessness or chest discomfort, stop having sex and consult your doctor. If you experience difficulties you should discuss them with your doctor so they can review your medicines and help you address any fear or anxiety you may have.

Communicate with your partner and stay open-minded. Explore what you both like sexually. Simply touching, being touched and being close to someone helps a person feel loved and special.

Returning to work

After recovering from heart surgery, you should be able to return to work, but it may be necessary to change the type of work that you do. For example, you may not be able to do a job that involves heavy physical exertion. Your specialist will be able to advise you about when you can return to work, and what type of activities you should avoid.

Last reviewed: December 2017

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