Why Am I So Tired After a Heart Attack?
As you may remember, I recently wrote a blog called 5 Things Your Cardiologist Won’t Tell You. In that blog, I invited readers to ask any cardiology questions they had. Last week, I answered one of the questions, and today I want to answer another.
A reader wrote to ask me why they're still tired after a heart attack that happened six months ago. That’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, filling in and strengthening scar tissue in the area where the cells died—and for some people it can take a lot longer.
While I obviously don’t know this reader’s entire medical history to offer specific advice, I can share several thoughts about recovering from a heart attack that I have learned from my patients and from supervising cardiac rehabilitation at my own hospital.
So, here’s my post-heart attack advice for energy recovery:
1. 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 is 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.
2. 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 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!)
3. 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 they recover.
4. Fortify your heart, and entire body, with a nutrient combination I call the “Awesome Foursome”: CoQ10 300–400 mg daily, magnesium 400–800 mg daily, broad-spectrum carnitine 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—which will increase your overall energy.
5. Finally, it’s important to 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.
Now it’s your turn: Readers, have any of you had a heart attack? If so, do you have any experience or wisdom to share with this reader? I invite you to share your story in the comments.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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