Heart attack

Returning to work after a heart attack

Most people we interviewed could return to work after having a heart attack. One man, whose job was physically demanding, was pensioned off on medical grounds. Another 70-year-old man who had been working part-time decided to leave his job. Most people went back after three months; some starting part-time. One 42-year-old man returned to work part-time after six weeks and built this up to full time over the next six weeks.

One man prepared himself for going back to work as a teacher. Another had felt very vulnerable travelling to work on the tube in London. Some found being back at work exhausting at first.

Of those we interviewed two men were self-employed. One, who needed to begin work shortly after coming home from hospital because it was a busy time of year, said it took some time to get back his stamina. Another, a hospital consultant, described what it was like going back to work, after being off for a year while waiting for his bypass surgery and during his recovery. One man said that it wasn't long before his colleagues at work stopped thinking of him as an invalid.

Although many of the people who were working at the time of their heart attack did return to work, some had to take early retirement at a later stage, either because they had another heart attack several years later and their GP advised them to retire, or they found they weren't coping and the company suggested they took medical retirement.

One man whose GP advised him to give up his work as a head of department in a school, after his second heart attack when he was 55, described how he came to terms with this. Another man was forced to retire on medical grounds at the age of 50 after his second heart attack; he talked about how for a long time he found it difficult to accept and to find a purpose to his life. Since early retirement was not planned, a few men had the additional worry about how they would provide for their families.

One man, who over the course of thirteen years had two heart attacks and two bypass operations, returned to work each time, but finally took early medical retirement when he was 63. Another found it difficult to cope in his job, which involved unnatural hours and quite a bit of stress, and he worked in another field for a few years before he returned to his job. A third man, in his late thirties, had returned to work after his heart attack, but after he had a second attack and developed heart failure, he had to give up his job.

One 55-year-old man did not return to work until 12 months after his heart attack because he was badly depressed. He found it difficult to cope back at work, and after pressure from his employers, took early medical retirement. The effect on him was devastating.

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After being forced to retire from their jobs, some of those interviewed were at a loss to know what to do with all their free time. One man described how his life had changed. Another was demoralised trying to find a job, but then became involved in running exercise programmes in his local area for the 'GP exercise by referral' cardiac rehabilitation scheme. Another man studied computer courses at college, learnt to play bridge and became involved with a heart support group.

One 59-year-old man had planned to retire when he was 60, but had to continue working because his savings had been reduced during the period he was off work. After his heart attack he was forced to use the money he had saved for his retirement.

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Last reviewed June 2017.

Last updated June 2017.

 

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