British Heart Foundation

Heart attack and exercising

I am new here, having just had both a heart attack and cardiac arrest. I am 66 and I run - a lot, six days a week and about 100k a week. I am still in hospital, having had a stent and a defibrillator fitted. I will be coming home very soon.

What I would like to know is how soon can I start running, and how much should I exercise? I feel very fit - as I always do.

21 Replies

That's the problem, you probably do feel fighting fit if you are used to all that regular exorcise.

However, you do now have to realise the seriousness of what your heart has just been through.

As you already know, the heart is a muscle. When muscle have been damaged, we have to let them heal first before we overload them again.

Your cardiac team should inform you about cardiac rehab.

Depends on your area, availability & personal health on when you will be able to partisipate.

Don't you worry, if you do as you are advised by the medical field. And as you were so fit before. You will be back to a 100 a week before you know it.

If you rush things though, you'll burn that muscle out. Then it will put you back more than you could know.

While you are waiting for the go ahead, do some walking, little but often. Making sure you elevate and rest legs in between walks.

No lifting anything more than the weight of a mug of tea until your Gp says otherwise.

Best of luck & be patient, you'll soon be back to normal 😊 Jo


Ps, that is the beauty of cardiac rehab. They advice and inform you of your personal capabilities.

They give you conffidance and put your mind at ease on the dos and don't's.

Try to get as much info from the cardiac staff before you go home. On how your family and friends can help your recovery. You'll be able to do more for yourself than you and your family may think.

Be patient with family and friends. This has all been just as scary and confusing for them as it has been for you.

You are all just learning about what you have just been through. So my advice, take one step at a time 😊

Hope you get to go home soon😑


Thank you Sina-6491


Thank you for your lovely considered response. They have said that I will see the rehab team, which I know will be very useful.

I am looking forward to getting back to exercising. I do Parkruns on Saturdays, and yesterday missed my first one in ages. I have been getting so many supportive messages on Facebook from the Parkrun community. Runners are great!

And thanks for what you said about family and friends. This has been quite a lot for them to take in - as it has been for me. We are all coming to terms with it. It does have more of an emotional affect than I expected.

I am going to have the defibrillator fitted tomorrow, and they told me that I won't be able to lift my arms above my shoulders for a while.


Yes so like I said, be a little patient & you'll be back with your running friends for those lovely sunny runs real soon.

I hope you are pottering around the ward little and often, give yourself a good head start. Hugs Jo 😊


Yes, I am having little walks around the ward, but until I have the defibrillator fitted I can't stay unattached from my monitor for long.

Sunny runs would be great. My runs have been very wet and muddy recently!

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Oh I didn't realise you were still on the monitor.

Chin up, wont be long 😊


I will second the rehab classes, I’ve just had my last one and am going to miss going very knowledgable people and it’s good to talk to others in a similar situation.


Yes, I'm looking forward to getting help and information. I really know so little about what has happened to me.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it seems that excessive runners, such as marathon runners, often develop heart problems due to too much strain on the heart which damages it. It then turns to scar tissue and can't "pump" as it should, and so has to work harder.

I'm sure you'll be able to get back to some running but perhaps it's time to consider cutting back a bit.

Until you get into rehab you should stick with just walking. You'll need to take it very easy until you get into rehab, where they'll advise on what you should and shouldn't be doing. After rehab you're talking months of recovery rather than weeks and that's where you gradually build up your recovery. Try not to rush things as it usually means a relapse.. a lot of us have fallen into that trap.

Sorry if that's not what you want to hear but I'm afraid that's the reality after a what you've been through... you should be able to run but at a slower pace and/or level.

It all seems a bit bleak at the moment but it does get easier, I promise. You'll look back in a years time and realise just how far you've come.


Thanks for the advice. After what I have been through, I definitely don't want to put myself at risk, and put my family through any more stress. It has been tough on them,

Heavy duty running has become a habit, and it won't be a bad thing to readjust what I do if necessary. I certainly look forward to getting the advice on what I should do, because at the moment, I really don't know what is sensible.


No problem mate. What is sensible at the moment is take it easy until you get into rehab. They'll assess you and give you a heart rate you should be working at during rehab. You may feel fit and ready to take on the world again (I did also) but you need to take it easy for a while to let your heart recover. Any excess strain on it now won't do you any favours, either in the short or the long term.

Once rehab is finished you then start to build up your fitness and increase your exercise rate, slowly.

This post might give you some info (as well as a linked post) but please be aware that we're all different and what applies to one might not apply to another. You need to listen to your body and if it doesn't feel right, or you're ill (cold, flu etc) then don't exercise until you're better. I'm afraid there's no rushing things at this stage.

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6 months ago my father had (another) heart attack and this time had a stent. He was put on a myriad of drugs (medications) - standard practice. But, oh boy, our learning about cardiac issues has been very very steep. Other than getting folk out of acute critical life threatening emergencies, I dont place much value on conventional medicine, and even less now. My father would have deteriorated rapidly had we not intervened with other knowledge and been able to wean off debilitating drugs. And the post-stent anti thrombotic drugs are of the worst there are. But with a stent, there is no choice here. Did they discuss that with you prior to stent? They didn't with my father.

I am not wanting to scare, you will be stable enough coming out of hospital, but then I would really look into research about what your body needs in terms of nutrients, what it is being depleted of (drugs deplete vit nutrients and make body function worse.. even though the symptoms they are meant to treat get ‘better’ for the moment.).

Did you have high blood pressure before? Have they said you have any form of heart failure (heart not pumping optimally)? Have you been on any other medicines, or over the counter stuff?(ibuprofen is one to avoid...)

Functional Medicine, Dr Sinatra’s protocols, homocysteine protocol (optimal nutrition, i think), Dr Mark Houston’s papers on other nutraceuticals for high blood pressure and heavy metal toxicity, Chris Kresser (heart fat myth). are all good places to look at and read and re-read. Find your own body’s needs.

Diiretics for example,.. taurine and magnesium are natural nutrients to maintain proper and sufficient electrolyte balance. Diuretics strain your kidney and leave you depleted of vital nutrients like magnesium and potentially potassium -both vital for cardiac health.

Clots can be due to inflammation (high blood sugar is a big cause of inflammation) and high homocysteine is another cause of clots. Homocysteine is easily brought down with B vits and TMG and some others.

You can get private blood tests via Medichecks.

Of course, Do not stop taking any drug suddenly as this can cause a rebound withdrawal effect. The body ‘pushes against’ , or adapts to , the action of a drug... when acdrug is suddenly removed, the body is still pushing against and cant react/adapt back immediately and this is dangerous.

I was onto a lot of this a few years ago, but my father was reluctant to go into other approaches. We are brought up and live in a society which on the whole thinks doctors know best. But when it comes to drugs and the fact that drugs do not get people back to optimal health, there are other options. And doctors (other than those trained in functional medicine) will not let you know about these, and are neither aware of them. This time I /we hope he will pull through and properly improve rather thsn just managing and ultimately getting worse (the doctors drug protocol did not stop the latest heart attack, afterall.

Take control of your own health!! There is a vast amount of info out there, you just have to be interested and persistent - and/or find a functional medicine practitioner to guide you through.

If you are the tiniest bit interested, a starting point might be to, read/google for Dr Sinatra’s heart failure protocol- important nutrients for heart.

Oh, and suboptimal thyroid can pre-empt cardiac issues. The NHS ranges for things being ‘ok’ are too broad. Functional Medicine gas a different view.

All the best.


Thanks for your reply but I think we are on the other side of the fence to each other here. I am happy to stick with conventional medicine and the advice of NHS practitioners.


:) thx


Thank you for the information. My husband had a massive heart attack & cardiac arrest 20 years ago. His heart was badly damaged & was inoperable, no by pass for him so his condition was treated by medication. This medication has kept him alive all this time, unless you are medically trained you cannot be sure what it right or what is wrong. No, the medication didn't stop your father having another heart attack but there could be other factors involved. My husband has never had another heart attack but we accept as he is getting older health risks are inevitable, his heart treatment is used worldwide! I hope your father is feelifeeling better soon.


Hi Lezzers,

I had heart attack last year in July when I was about a 1 month away from my 37th Birthday and when my Son was just 10months old. I have lived pretty decent life, no alchohol, no smoking, vegterian, mostly had homemade food, and was active. I had high cholestrol but Dr never thought I was at risk. Since my heart attack I am always worried about my son and wife.

Good to hear that your husband had heard attack and cardiac arrest 20 years ago and he is still alive, It gave me a hope.

Does your husband have stents in artries? How many? And what medication did he have since then? Was there any side effect of medicine? Looks like may be getting side effects of Asprin?


Hi survivor, my husband was 42 when he had the heart attack, not many years older than you, so totally understand your worries. Bear in mind this was 20 years ago & there has been so many advances in heart medication/treatment since then. Kevin didn' any stents & unfortunately he couldn't have a by-pass as his main aorta was blocked & still is, he also had quite a bit of damage to the heart. However, he has managed to live an almost normal life even going to the gym with a programme geared up to his condition. Fast forward 15 years to 5 years ago he was diagnosed with heart failure. Told he was high risk of sudden death & fitted with an ICD. He's adjusted his lifestyle as HF does take it's toll but he is far from being an invalid. He does take a fair amount of medication which is currently being adjusted. It did take Kevin a couple of years to get used to everything, he thought his life was over!! so give yourself time. Obviously everyone is different, but I always think Kevin's story is worth telling, as the re-hab nurse' told him "there is still life after an heart attack". Hope this helps you feel more settled, Kevin is 63 this year! Do feel free to contact me anytime you feel overwhelmed/need to vent or just want to chat bout things x

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Many thanks for for the quick response. Insipirational, kudos to your husband for making such a insipirational recovery and kudos to you for supporting him in this journey which I guess wouldn't have been as good without your support!


Ha, I think Kevin would consider my support to be just another word for nagging!! I've tried wrapping him in cotton wool but he won't have it...i guess he's right!!!


Hello NineToTheSky and welcome to the forum, you certainly joined a very helpful community.

Another fir and active Marathon Runner with heart problem, hummm, when you have a moment or two have a read below, I am sure it will be helpful.

I wish you a speedy recovery and hope all goes well for you. Do keep us posted as you make progress.


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