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Physical Therapy After a Heart Attack — Information, Exercises, and More


Have you suffered from a heart attack and long to do the things you used to do?

Recovering from a heart attack can be a long and arduous process.

However, physical therapy can help speed up the process and get you back into shape.

In this article, you will learn more about the benefits of physical therapy after a heart attack and how to begin your journey back to thriving in life. 


What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is a serious medical condition in which the heart muscle cannot pump blood effectively and becomes damaged.

It can be fatal if not treated quickly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year around 805,000 Americans suffer a heart attack.


What Causes a Heart Attack?

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the United States.

But what causes so many people in America to suffer and die from a heart attack each year?

A small percentage of people are genetically predisposed to an increased risk of a heart attack. 

However, the leading cause of heart attacks occurs when one or more coronary arteries leading to the heart becomes blocked by plaque — which is coronary artery disease.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a condition in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrowed or blocked by plaque.

Arterial plaque can build up in the arteries because of several factors, including:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Lack of exercise
  • Eating unhealthy foods
  • High blood pressure; and
  • The effects of poor lifestyle choices

When the heart struggles to pump enough blood around the body due to coronary artery disease, you may experience a heart attack.

Heart Attack Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating profusely; and
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded

The two of the most common symptoms of a heart attack are chest pain and shortness of breath that is severe enough to make you stop or slow your activities.

Severe Chest Pain

Severe chest pain can be a symptom that the heart is not functioning properly, and you could be having a heart attack.

People who experience chest pain describe it as a …

  • Stabbing
  • Burning; or
  • Aching pain

… in the center of their chest that is not relieved by taking deep breaths or leaning on something.

If you are experiencing severe and prolonged chest pain for over 30 minutes, it is important to seek medical attention.

Shortness of Breath

Shortness of breath can also be a common symptom of a heart attack.

When the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body, it can cause shortness of breath.

If you experience shortness of breath that lasts more than a few minutes, or if other symptoms accompany it, such as …

  • Sweating
  • Feeling light-headed; or
  • Nausea

… you may be having a heart attack.

Shortness of breath can be caused by the blockage of blood flow to the lungs, which can lead to chest pain and difficulty breathing.

If you experience shortness of breath after a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.

Heart Attack Treatment

The goal of heart attack treatments is to improve the patient’s overall quality of life by restoring function and improving mobility.

Some common treatment options after a heart attack include:

  • Angioplasty 
  • Cardiac rehab
  • Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) 

There is no one definitive approach to heart attack treatment, and each patient’s situation is unique.

It is important to work with a healthcare provider who will tailor a treatment plan specifically for you.


Angioplasty may be a good treatment option for those who have had a heart attack and have narrowed or blocked arteries in their heart.

Angioplasty is a procedure in which a small balloon is inserted into an artery to open it up and improve blood flow.

The benefits of angioplasty include:

  • Improved blood flow to the heart
  • Improved quality of life; and
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease

An angioplasty procedure can reduce the time it takes for the heart to recover and improve your chances of a full recovery.

Coronary Artery Bypass Graf

Another treatment option, known as coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), helps patients improve their overall fitness, including their ability to exercise and manage stress.

The benefits of a coronary artery bypass graft include:

  • Improved heart function
  • Reduced pain; and
  • Improved quality of life

Cardiac rehab may also include education on healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of death from future cardiovascular challenges.

Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program that can help improve your overall fitness and health after a heart attack. This treatment option may include:

  • Exercises
  • Counseling
  • Medication; and
  • Education on healthy lifestyle

Cardiac rehab may include a team of health professionals that will work together to improve your heart function and reduce the risk of future heart attacks. 

Do you need physical therapy after a heart attack?

Choose the #1 physical therapy center in the nation — In Motion O.C.

Physical Therapy After a Heart Attack — Will PT Help?

Yes, physical therapy can help heart attack survivors:

  • Improve their range of motion
  • Reduce inflammation in the body; and
  • Regain strength and stability in their joints

Studies show that undergoing physical therapy after a heart attack can also help improve their overall health.

Physical therapy can even help reduce the risk of future heart attacks by improving blood flow.

Best Exercises for Heart Attack Recovery

Physical therapy can help improve your quality of life after a heart attack by helping to improve your:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility; and
  • Balance

The best exercises for heart attack recovery depend on the individual’s level of fitness and injury history.

However, most health professionals advise that the best exercises for heart attack recovery include:

  • Aerobic exercise
  • Strength training; and
  • Stretching

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise after a heart attack can help improve blood flow and reduce the risk of further heart disease.

A physical therapist will usually recommend low-impact aerobic exercise, such as:

  • Walking
  • Rowing
  • Biking; and
  • Swimming

For a well-rounded workout, combine aerobic exercise with strength training and stretching. 

Strength Training

Strength training is an integral part of physical therapy after a heart attack.

A physical therapist will usually recommend low-impact strength exercises, such as:

  • Rows
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Lat pull-downs; and
  • Resistance band exercises

Exercises like these can help improve your overall fitness and reduce the risk of future heart problems.

Strength training can also help improve your mood and reduce stress levels.


Stretching is an aspect of heart attack recovery that you should not overlook.

Stretching properly in physical therapy can help to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce stiffness
  • Improve blood flow
  • Improve overall quality of life; and
  • Improve range of motion and flexibility

Not only does stretching help to prevent further injury, but it also helps to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.

How In Motion O.C. Can Help After a Heart Attack

In Motion O.C. can help you achieve your heart attack recovery goals through various exercises and treatments specific to your needs.

Our physical therapists have helped dozens, if not hundreds, of people recover from various ailments.

We are also proud to say that In Motion O.C. is #1 among physical therapists in the entire countryand we have testimonials and case studies to prove it.

Let our therapists work with you one-on-one to determine the best approach for your recovery. 

Contact In Motion O.C. today.

In Motion O.C.