One of the most common questions I get from people is why they're still tired after a heart attack that happened six months ago. It's a great question. Fatigue is the number one symptom after a heart attack, because the heart is devoting a lot of its energy to healing. As it builds scar tissue, the energy left for physical exertion is diminished at first but does recover gradually over time.
The heart needs a full three months to truly heal after a heart attack, filling in and strengthening scar tissue in the area where the cells died—and for some people it can take a lot longer.
I can share several thoughts about recovering after a heart attack that I have learned from my patients and from supervising cardiac rehabilitation at my own hospital.
For Energy Recovery After a Heart Attack
- Understand that life will be different for a time. One of the hardest things for many of my patients to appreciate after a heart attack was that there’s a scar area that’s healing in their heart. So often they don’t understand why simple activities that never used to tire them are exhausting them. So be patient with yourself.
- Keep up with your rehab program, including exercise and diet. If there is a hospital near you that offers a cardiac rehabilitation program, ask your M.D. to give you a referral so that your insurance company will cover your attendance. You will need a low-level stress test so the cardiologist can write your exercise prescription, and the staff there will teach you how to exercise safely after a heart attack and progress your level of exercise each week under close supervision. (Plus, you will make great friends with others going through recovery just like you!)
- Follow a heart-healthy diet regimen. I recommend following the Pan-Asian Modified Mediterranean (PAMM) diet. I also recommend simple walking, with your doctor’s permission of course. Even if you follow the PAMM diet to the letter, I still have my own patients take targeted nutritional supplements to help their hearts heal and stay strong long after a heart attack.
- Fortify your heart with a nutrient combination I call the "Awesome Foursome": CoQ10 100–300 mg daily, magnesium 400–800 mg daily, broad-spectrum carnitine 1–2 g daily in divided doses, and D-ribose 5 g twice daily. These nutrients will help to ensure that the damaged tissue in the heart has maximum ability to recover after a heart attack—which will increase your overall energy.
- Follow up with your doctor regularly—and express any concerns you have, including fatigue. Also remember that fatigue can be a symptom of depression, so be sure to mention it to your physician so he or she can evaluate the cause.