NJ Senior Care Blog

American Heart Month: Senior Care After a Heart Attack


Today, a heart attack isn’t the death sentence it once was. In fact, around 90% of people who go to the hospital during a heart attack will survive. Unfortunatelyhowever, many individuals suffer repeat heart attacks or worsening heart disease symptoms. For seniors, a heart attack can require serious recovery time, extra care, and changes in lifestyle. This adjustment can be challenging, for both the person suffering the heart attack and for the family members providing care.

Recovery Time for Seniors

The typical recovery period for a heart attack is around 8 weeks. For seniors--who typically heal more slowly--the return to normal function may take longer. Many older people take medications or have concurrent diseases or illnesses that slow the recovery process. For seniors who don’t have access to regular healthy meals and assistance with exercise, recovery can take even longer.

It’s important for family members and loved ones to offer support and interaction during the recovery process. It can be a lonely and scary time, especially for people who were previously independent and active. A professional caregiver can help make the recovery process less lonely and more pleasant. With assistance around the house, seniors healing from a cardiac event can get the rest, meals and structured exercise they need in order to bounce back.

Lifestyle Adjustments After a Heart Attack

For the majority of individuals who have suffered a myocardial infarction, lifestyle changes are necessary to facilitate recovery and reduce the likelihood of a repeat heart attack.

3 important lifestyle adjustments seniors should make following a heart attack:

Stop smoking. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It is a major cause of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysm, and atherosclerosis. Second-hand smoke has also been shown to cause heart attack and stroke in non-smokers. If your senior loved one is still smoking, even after a heart attack, it is vital to develop a plan with his or her doctor to help them quit.

Establish an exercise plan. One of the most important changes seniors can make after a heart attack is establishing a regular exercise routine. Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, helps reduce the risk of a second heart and can even speed the healing process. Cardiac rehabilitation programs help seniors find the right exercise routines for their comfort levels. The goal for heart attack patients is to build up to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.

Make necessary changes to your diet. It’s important to change the way you eat following a heart attack. Many doctors recommend limiting or even eliminating foods high in fat or cholesterol. Some may recommend limiting red meat, sodium or sugar. Others recommend eliminating alcohol. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy oils, and healthy fats can help improve heart health and overall health following a heart attack.

Managing Stress: Even More Important After a Heart Attack

Stress and anxiety put extra strain on the heart. After a heart attack, the heart muscle needs time to recover, and for seniors who are under stress, recovery can be slower with more setbacks.


It’s important for family members to offer extra support and contact during this time. If you can’t visit regularly, taking time to call a few times per week can help your senior loved one feel connected. Additionally, an in-home caregiver can help relieve your senior loved one’s stress by helping with chores, driving them to doctor’s appointments, and preparing meals.

Even as your loved one begins to transition back into normal activity, it’s important to encourage them to manage their stress. Meditation, light exercise, breathing techniques, massage, and even playing music can help individuals come down from a stressful situation.

While heart attack recovery can be a trying time, most senior adults can make a full recovery with the support of caregivers and family members.

Learn more about New Jersey senior home care in Mercer and Burlington Counties by contacting Visiting Angels today.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.