Heart attack patients who want to go back to work can do it according to a recently published report.

Figures show that the majority of patients — between 67% and 93% — who suffer from acute coronary syndromes — which include heart attacks and unstable angina (chest pain) — do return to work in two to three months. However, after a year, one in four quit.

Among those over 55, women are less likely to go back to employment than men.

The new report, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology, takes a look at the reasons why patients quit their jobs after a heart attack and offers practical advice on how to successfully reintegrate staff back into the workplace after they have had a heart attack.

The key question, according to the report, is how the patient feels about work — do they want to go back or not?

Also important are psychological factors, with lack of confidence, depression and anxiety all predicting failure to return.

The patient's medical condition combined with the type of work can also have an impact. For example, blue collar workers may struggle if they have heart failure, rhythm instability, or ischaemia which reduce physical performance.

In addition, those with implanted cardiac devices might need to avoid workplaces with electrical fields.

The researchers have offered the following advice for a successful return to work after a heart attack:

  • attend cardiac rehabilitation for advice on a healthy lifestyle, and personalised advice on getting back into employment

  • don't change jobs

  • take it gradually if needed:

    • do fewer hours/days at the start

    • work from home once a week

    • take more breaks

    • delegate some responsibility

  • stay in contact with your GP and/or company doctor and adjust the workload if needed.

Last reviewed 13 August 2019