by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
For my whole life BHA (Before Heart Attack), I can hardly remember feeling real fatigue. Oh, sure, I’d feel sore working long hot days on our fruit farm as a teenager. Or sleepy after pulling those all-nighters in college. Or out-of-my-mind exhausted coping with a teething baby and a sleepless toddler. Or tired at the end of a stressful day juggling deadlines in my public relations career. Or maybe even pleasantly pooped after my running group finished a long road race. But generally speaking, on a day-to-day basis, never ever the kind of severe fatigue I experienced AHA.
I’ve always been one of those disgustingly perky early risers who leaped cheerfully out of bed the minute one droopy eyelid cracked open to discover the clock showed anything past 4:30 a.m. Once I finished leaping, I’d hit the coffeepot and then the shower, in that order. Then away I’d go, tap dancing 90 mph to meet the day ahead, rarely slowing down until I hit the pillow much, much later that night.
But after I was discharged from hospital following my heart attack, I was gobsmacked to suddenly experience daily bouts of extreme bone-crushing fatigue that I could never have even imagined existed before.
I remember, for example, going for a walk one day with my son, Ben, shortly after coming home from hospital. My post-op instructions from the CCU had been to walk outdoors one block a day for the first week, two blocks a day the second week, etc. Ben and I had barely made it to the stop sign at the end of our block when I had to grab his arm to lean on for support all the way home. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like a frail old lady, barely able to shuffle one foot in front of the other. And when we finally returned home (slowest pace in recorded history), I could hardly make it to the couch to recover from the exertion of this simple little walk.
What was happening to me?!?
It’s hard to describe this kind of relentless fatigue to those who have never experienced it, or to explain fatigue that is not relieved by just resting. And nobody had warned me in hospital that this relatively common reality during cardiac recovery was heading my way. I could find only a handful of research studies confirming what I was experiencing.
A 2008 Swedish study out of the University of Gothenburg, for example, found that about half of all patients who survive a myocardial infarction (heart attack) are still experiencing “onerous fatigue” four months after the infarction.(1)
Dr. Pia Alsén, author of this study, observed:
“Many people experienced the fatigue as new and different, not related to physical effort or a lack of rest; it occurred unpredictably and could not be attributed to any definite cause.”
The elusive cause of the fatigue might also lie in the damage done by the heart attack itself. When heart muscle is damaged from being deprived of oxygenated blood flow during a heart attack, scar tissue is formed on the damaged heart muscle, decreasing the pumping efficiency in the affected area. The resulting reduction of blood flow can produce fatigue, depending on the size and location of the scar tissue.
If you’re a heart patient diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse (MVP – one of the most common conditions that affect our heart valves), your mitral valve is enlarged and unable to close correctly, preventing blood from flowing normally throughout your body. When your organs don’t get an adequate supply of oxygenated blood due to MVP, you can experience extreme fatigue.
Some medications that you are taking for heart disease can also cause fatigue. These include the beta blockers (atenolol, metoprolol, etc.) and statin drugs to treat high cholesterol (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor).
And if you also have a sleep disorder like sleep apnea (a condition linked to heart disease), you can feel extreme fatigue during the day.
Weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath are to be expected in virtually all those recovering from a heart attack. Heart patients being discharged from hospital should be advised before going home that they may find just getting out of bed, taking a shower, and dressing can feel utterly exhausting, especially in the early days and weeks. See also: Why Taking a Shower Is So Exhausting for Heart Attack Survivors
It’s important to remember that symptoms like crushing fatigue can also be found in thyroid, depression and other medical conditions. It’s possible to have both heart disease and a second condition that is also contributing to your exhaustion.
Kelly Young, founder of Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior, describes the kind of fatigue so many patients with chronic illness experience. She wrote:
“All of a sudden on Monday afternoon, it felt like it was 2 a.m. and I should be in bed. This is not the same as being tired. It’s more like being sick with the flu. I can remember the ‘good’ feeling of tired after working hard. This is not it – this is being sick. It can come at any time of day or night.
“This fatigue is not always the result of physical activity. It can suddenly develop for no apparent reason. This fatigue can last hours or days. It makes movement very difficult.
“It is not a psychosomatic condition.”
Here’s Kelly’s list of tips in managing severe fatigue common among those living with a chronic illness (shared by her blog readers at RA Warrior):
- Budget energy wisely. Guard energy.
- Have a regular schedule. Or go to bed early.
- Do gentle modified stretching or yoga.
- Nutritious balanced snacks such as protein bar and fruit.
- Get the best sleep at night possible.
- Get the best bed possible.
- Use heat to fight fatiguing pain.
- Eat on a regular schedule.
- Eat enough protein.
- Take small naps.
- Relaxation or meditation techniques.
- Alternate periods of activity and rest.
- Check for deficiencies such as iron or vitamin B-12.
- Treat the disease as aggressively as possible.
- While resting, plan for what you’ll do when you are more able.
- Fruit juice & sympathy.
- Check for side effects of medicines. Take them at the best time of day to avoid fatigue.
- Accept the reality that the list will not be accomplished today.
- When the body says “No more” – stop.
- Watch a movie.
- Take large naps.
- Delegate and oversee.
- Blue Kryptonite!
1. Alsen, P., Brink E. & Persson, L-O. (2008). Living with incomprehensible fatigue after recent myocardial infarction. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 64(5), 459-68.
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote much more about the surprising fatigue that’s so common among heart patients in my book, “A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease”. You can ask for it at your local library or favourite bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon, or order it directly from my publisher, Johns Hopkins University Press (use the JHUP code HTWN to save 30% off the list price).
Q: Have you had to deal with severe fatigue since your heart disease diagnosis?
Why taking a shower is so exhausting after a heart attack
Exhaustion: the ‘leaky emotion’ of chronic illness
Depressed? Who, me? Myths and facts about depression and heart disease
202 thoughts on “25 tips to manage the crushing fatigue of heart disease”
Wow, really late getting in here, just found this — I have 2 stents and type 2 diabetes, and sometimes I’m not sure whether my fatigue is caused by one or the other. I tend to fall asleep about 20 minutes after a meal, sometimes right at the table, so I suspect that’s blood-sugar related, but ever since before my first stent I’ve found it hard to run errands. I went shopping with some friends the other day and the next day my whole body hurt and I was just wiped out. This is so typical.
So glad to hear that fatigue is normal. Wish I could make my family understand this.
But I wanted to comment on the blue kryptonite — my superhero-movie fan dh looked it up when I asked him what it was. He found references to a certain type of marijuana that is supposed to help with aches and pains but also CAUSES a sense of sedation and sleepiness. Makes me wonder what the original blog poster meant by including that in her list!
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Hi Meghan – fatigue like yours may be “normal”, but that sure doesn’t make it any easier to live with! It’s almost impossible to explain this to our family (or anybody who hasn’t ever experienced this kind of fatigue). I’ve heard people respond dismissively, “Well, all of us feel tired like that once in a while…”
Re the blue kryptonite – an old Superman comics reference (likely long before that marijuana varietal was named!) It had healing effects on Superman…
Had 3 heart attacks since 2014, lately have felt crushing tiredness doing simple tasks. I have AF ischemic heart disease. MS in wheelchair.
My eyes hurt (partially sighted)and feel like lead weight. Meds daily. Other health issues.
Dear Heart Sisters,
I have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) for which I have had open heart surgery twice 4 years ago…. In December I had an ablation for atrial arrhythmias and a stent for a 90% lesion in my Circumflex artery…. Caught BEFORE an MI.
In your blog, I finally found a fellow experiencer of this weird, unpredictable, intermittent, seeming without-cause FATIGUE… I have dealt with it for years eliminating statins, balancing thyroid hormones, sleep studies, decreasing meds etc. After my stent I thought I was coming to a normal energy state….. going for walks…. going to the pool …
But I was duped again … just spent 3 days in a chair, taking naps and sleeping 10 hrs at night.
Is this just the way it will be the rest of my life and I need to accept it? I am an RN and it’s hard for me to embrace things that I can’t explain physiologically.
I would appreciate knowing about any ongoing or completed studies in Cardiac Fatigue.
Thanks for being there.
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Hi Jill – I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. It sounds like you’ve done everything possible to solve this fatigue mystery over the years, and then had some relief in the past couple of months until now. There has actually been far more research into cancer-related fatigue than in heart disease-related fatigue.
I’m not a physician so cannot comment specifically on your case, but I can tell you generally that there are certain types of cardiac conditions that are in fact linked to significant fatigue (e.g. heart failure, infections like endocarditis, arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, certain valve conditions, dilated cardiomyopathy, etc). Some episodes are intermittent and fleeting, others are chronic. I thought for sure mine was chronic and progressive in the early weeks/months – but although I still have “those days”, I have learned that carefully pacing myself helps me avoid the worst episodes of fatigue these days, so please do not give up hope.
I do think it’s curious that immediately after your stent/ablation, it seems like you were feeling less fatigued (“normal energy state”) which must have made you feel hopeful at last. You are in relatively early days since those two procedures and NO, it does not necessarily mean “this is just the way it will be”. But speak to your physician about these severe fatigue symptoms to see if there might be other clues to the mystery. Best of luck to you…
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Thank You Carolyn….I am curious that you said that “…you are in the early days” following my ablation and stenting….I guess I felt that since I didn’t have an actual MI, that recovery would be pretty quick … 7 weeks now….
Do you have experience or info on recovering from those procedures? Of course underlying HCM and stacking 2 procedures 2 weeks apart can have an effect too, I would imagine.
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Jill, I have come to believe that anything up to one year post-procedure (no matter the procedure, or what the cardiac event was) is “early days” relative to coming out the other end one day feeling anything like your ‘real’ self. And I think you are 100% correct: you had two significant cardiac procedures, just two weeks apart, on top of your underlying HCM! No wonder you are feeling so exhausted…
There are two distinct areas of recovery, as you know: the physical part that’s simply the body recuperating from any invasive procedure, and of course the psychological part that makes us feel discouraged enough to ask questions like yours: “Is this just the way it will be the rest of my life?” That’s a profoundly surreal question for most of us. I’ve written lots on this both here on my blog and also in my new book.
A couple articles you might find relevant include this one on the “loss of self” after a medical crisis, or this on on feeling like we’ve now entered a “new country” – and don’t know how to get back home. I also wrote about why I believe there is “no such thing as a ‘small’ heart attack” (or any other cardiac procedure, for all those reasons. Crushing fatigue can also be a very common companion to depression. One day at at time, one foot in front of the other at a time…
My 77-year-old husband has had 3 heart attacks and 2 stents up to 2008. Then last year they discovered lung cancer but told him that a partial lobectomy would get rid of it so he had that on 29/11/17. His lung collapsed as expected but he was discharged from the hospital with 2 portable drains on 19/12/17.
Unfortunately, he then had a heart attack on 23/12/17 and had to go back to the hospital where they renewed a stent that had become blocked. Then on 25/12/17, he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was shocked back immediately and spent more time in the hospital but he hasn’t been able to eat properly for months so he is now 8 stone 10pounds where he once was 11 stone 6 pounds.
He came home on 02/01/18 and sleeps a lot, can’t stand as he’s so weak and has a respiratory infection for which he is taking antibiotics. We found your comments about fatigue after a heart attack, very informative, thank you.
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Hello Sylvia – no wonder your husband is feeling so fatigued, considering all his body has gone through in a short time. You too must be exhausted just trying to cope with all of this. Best of luck to you and your husband…
(This comment has been removed as it was trying to sell you stuff…. )
Suffered a heart attack on 9/28/2016 at 53 yrs of age. Will never forget it. Had 2 surgeries to install 3 stents. Afterwards, had issues of passing out (2x) and many incidents of heart palpitations (tachycardia) so the cardiologist implanted a loop recorder after testing the electrical system of my heart.
I have read people talking about having rehab. My doctors never said anything about rehab. They told me what they did during the surgeries; prescribed me a diet of pills; told me to stop smoking and to change my diet.
Like many others, my life has changed. I get tired easily and must take a nap everyday. The medications I take in the morning and the evening cause me to be tired too. I have no ambition to do much of anything especially in the Arizona heat and most anything physical. Previously, I was very active, had a physically challenging job as a commercial electrician and I worked about 50 hours a week. Now, it seems I can’t do much at all and I limit my outdoor activities and running errands during the summer months- I simply cannot stand the heat. From what I am reading, this is pretty much what many others go through after having a heart attack. At least I am alive and get to enjoy my 4 month old grandson. Sometimes we have to look at the glass being half-full instead of being half-empty.
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Hi Brian – Arizona in the summer!? No wonder you have no ambition to do much of anything. Heart patients need to be especially careful during hot weather (read more about that here) plus you are still less than one year post-heart attack. It can be a severe shock to those of us who used to be super-active to suddenly not be able to do what was likely considered routine before. See if you can get a treadmill or exercise bike to use indoors, with air-conditioning – it seems like a paradox, but getting a regular cardio workout – just start slow! – can often end up being the most helpful way to get through this fatigue.
I know from personal experience that grandbabies are the best medicine ever! Enjoy that precious little one and don’t be too hard on yourself – there’s no award for being the fastest heart patient to bounce back. Just do what you can do, little by little, and take extra special care to do what you can to avoid the heat.
I have been fighting heart disease since 2002 when I was only 36 and in 2010 I had a quad bypass and ever since my surgery I have grown more and more fatigued. In 2013 I had another heart attack as well as pulmonary embolism in my lung, in turn I can no longer work mainly due to fatigue.
And now I suffer from severe anxiety and depression which is what my dr claims is the main source of my fatigue in his opinion, which I personally find mind boggling because it seems my 15 years of living with heart disease and surviving a total of 12 of them does not qualify me to have a valid opinion on my prognosis because I didn’t go to medical school.
Sorry I digress, I know what my body feels and what I can and can’t do but I feel like maybe I’m crazy because I’m told most of it is in my head. I just want to thank you for sharing this because I realize I’m not alone and I never knew my beta blockers and statins contributed to my symptoms as well, the warning on my bottles only suggest dizziness as possible side effect. But truly thank you and thank you to all who have shared your stories I have found them inspirational.
Hello Donnie and thanks for sharing your very complicated story here. Honestly, my first thought while reading it was, ‘Geez Louise, no wonder Donnie is depressed!’ I like what cardiac psychologist (and heart attack survivor himself) Dr. Stephen Parker once wrote about his own anxiety and depression during cardiac recovery: “There are damned good reasons to feel anxious and depressed. A heart attack is a deeply wounding event, and it is a wound that takes a long time to recover from, whatever the treatment.”
I’m not a physician so cannot comment specifically on your situation, but I can tell you generally that we know one of the most important longterm complications of pulmonary embolism is called chronic pulmonary hypertension (which may show up as fatigue, limited exercise tolerance or shortness of breath). Here’s an interesting journal article about that.
Nobody can say which came first: did the fatigue cause the depression and anxiety, or did the anxiety and depression cause the fatigue? Fatigue is, unfortunately, the very common companion to a number of chronic diagnoses.
Re your depression/anxiety: I really hope that you will make an appointment with a counselor, pastor, therapist or other trained professional to help improve your quality of life. You cannot change the medical diagnoses you’ve had, but you – with some skilled help – might very well be able to make some changes to your mental and emotional state.
Best of luck to you…
You’re the first person that I can relate to. I coded five times, I’m very lucky to be here, my wife saved my life. Thank God she knew CPR, and we don’t think about what she went through also.
I think I have come back a different person. I have no interest, I don’t want to work, play, enjoy my summer home. I feel sick most of the time, but no one understands the way you feel. You’re right, once they fix you, it’s over.
Luckily, my daughter is an RN and gets me help and support groups, but your heart doctors don’t understand. I’m going to try your suggestions, but it’s been a year and doctors can’t seem to understand what we deal with.
I did 14 weeks of cardiac rehab, but not one nurse or doctor ever asked about how I was doing mentally. I think all they think about is physically. I paid no attention to feelings, and it got to me a few months later.
Thanks for posting this. There are a lot of us out there wondering when it may pass. I worry everyday if I’ll ever be the same.
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Hello Bert – many heart patients are stunned by how long it may actually take to start feeling like our old selves again. Some of the symptoms you describe (e.g. no interest, don’t want to work, play, enjoy things) sound like depression symptoms (very common in heart patients). Read more about that here.
You may benefit, as I did, from talking to a professional therapist, pastor, or counselor about what you’ve been going through (it’s a good way to get unstuck and feel less like a different person). Yes, your old self IS still there inside you and your instincts are intact – but maybe just buried a bit by what hit you a year ago. Many of us just need a little help uncovering them while recuperating from something so catastrophic. You’ve been through a lot!
Meanwhile, while you’re waiting for your talk therapy appointment, try this little trick that helped me a lot: every single day, go out and do one thing, at least one thing, that makes you happy. Doesn’t have to be a big major event at all, just one small thing (like a walk in nature, or watching the sunset, or an ice cream cone on a sunny day). Try it and let me know how you make out… Best of luck to you…
Thank you for writing this. I am one year post quadruple bypass age 54 (I have Familial Hypercholesterolemia and HIGH Lipoprotein(a) and am a high energy person. Today is one of those days. I’m exhausted for no reason at all.
I normally exercise an hour a day and complete my errands and activities. Today I can barely keep my eyes open. After reading your post, I’m going to surrender to it and plan for tomorrow when I will likely feel good again.
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Hello Kathy – some days are like this (in the words of Alexander’s mother in one of my kids’ favourite storybooks when they were little – “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day”). Sometimes, we can figure out why we’re suddenly so exhausted, but other days (like today, for you) it’s a mystery. Hang in there, be extra nice to yourself…
Since my heart attack, I’m absolutely shattered.
Sorry to hear this, Pat. When heart attack survivors use words like “shattered”, that typically means you’re not only talking about physical effects but emotional and psychological ones too. One day at a time, little by little, things WILL feel a bit better. Please make an appointment with a therapist, pastor, counselor or other trained professional to help you get through this. Best of luck to you…
It does mess with your head for sure. I worry daily about my tiredness and shortness of breath when doing even small tasks. At times, I have hyperventilation panic attacks but after THOROUGH testing this past May, I do feel lots better except for the fact of the heart failure… coughing and all
It is hard to deal with at times for sure…
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Hi Wayne – for many people, heart failure can have its own list of debilitating symptoms that may be quite different than those experienced by heart attack survivors. But fatigue can feel as awful in both diagnoses. Glad you’re feeling a bit better after your tests. Hang in there…
hi I’m a 54 year old male..i had train and worked out my whole life my workout consisted of 300. pushups a day and 6 to 8 miles of walking fastpaced 5 days a week…
I had a heart attack the week after Christmas…my strength and power was second to not even men half my age. my body fat never exceeded 6 percent my whole life .the cardiologist was shocked at the condtion of my body and sill suffered a heart attack…when I first went to cardio rehab most of the people there thought I was one of the trainers to be only shocked to find out I was not..
needless to say I was devastated mentally Iam slowly gaining strength back a little at time. I have the slightest twinge of pain anywhere heart pops in my head I have two stents now. the one thing that I can tell you from my training experience is any musle even the heart can be made stronger even if its damaged…
i guess what I’m saying is a heart attack can happen to anyone anytime anywhere so don’t feel bad if you had that piece of cake or a extra helping or two. enjoy your life tell your kids you love them and the grandkids ….stop and remember the birds are always singing and the sun is still shining behind the rain clouds even in a down pour…..stay strong all…
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Your story is a reminder that, as you say, a heart attack CAN indeed happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere. When the the super-fit famous runner Jim Fixx dropped dead during a run in 1984, I remember hearing the theory that it had perhaps been his high level of fitness that may have actually postponed his own cardiac event by a decade (he had a broad family history of heart disease).
You might be interested in reading the new book “The Haywire Heart” by Dr. John Mandrola about the known links between the elite competitive athlete and heart disease. Best of luck to you….
Before my heart attack I worked 50 to 60 hours a week. Now I can barely manage 20 hours a week sometimes less than that. Housework is difficult and I do only what I can. I have small grandchildren and just taking them to the park wears me out. I am tired all the time. I am depressed just because I can’t do what I used to do.
Hello Janice – thanks for sharing your experience here. The ‘before’ and ‘after’ differences (not just in energy level, but in so many other ways, too) can feel absolutely shocking to heart patients. It can sometimes feel like we don’t even recognize this new person we’ve become. Sociologist and chronic illness researcher Dr. Kathy Charmaz calls this experience “the loss of self“. Your last sentence really caught my attention, because often it’s hard to tell which comes first: are we depressed because we’re so tired, or are we tired because we’re depressed? Please make an appointment to talk to a therapist, counselor, or pastor about what you’re going through. Many of us find talk therapy to be a turning point (not that it erases fatigue, but it can help to stop feeling so awful about fatigue). Meanwhile, for the time being try being very kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up about the housework, and practice p-a-c-i-n-g nice and slow no matter what the activity you’re doing.
Best of luck to you…
I had a mild heart attack April 9th, no stent required as where the small blockage is located, it’s too narrow to put one in. Only symptom I had was it felt like someone was sitting on my chest and a couple of dizzy spells when I was out shopping. I’m still in shock, trying to wrap my head around it all. I am soooo tired though!!! I’m on Lipitor and aspirin a day for meds, also on Champix to quit smoking. But I am sooooo tired!! I’ve just started reading your website which I love, and can’t wait for your book to come out.
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Hello Donna – welcome to the exclusive club that none of us ever wanted to join! You are still in VERY early days, and likely feeling what my heart sister Jodi Jackson calls “post-heart attack STUN!” I’m so glad that you’re going to quit smoking – that alone will make a tremendous change in your heart health. I’m also glad you found my site – here are a few other posts that are aimed at the freshly-diagnosed heart patient:
– Handling the Homecoming Blues
– Six Personality Coping Patterns That Influence How You Handle Heart Disease
– How We Adapt After a Heart Attack May Depend on What We Believe this Diagnosis Means
I hope your doctor has referred you to a cardiac rehabilitation program (if not, ASK!) Meanwhile, your only job now is to heal and rest up and do just what you’re doing – reading as much as you can to learn all about what the heck has just happened to you! Take it nice and slow… Best of luck to you!
Oh thank you so much for validating what I’m feeling, so I’m not going crazy, it’s normal to be THIS tired?!!
My family dr has referred me to a cardiologist but I don’t have an appt as yet. Things move slowly here in Ontario, Canada I’m afraid!! All my family Dr has told me is to “take it easy” for about a month, no vacuuming (I don’t know why, he didn’t say, I didn’t ask) and see you in 3 weeks! So I’m quite lost to say the least right now!!
Thank you for the quick reply and the links I so very much appreciate them and whatever other words of wisdom you can give!! Hugs
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Hi again Donna – no, you are most definitely NOT going crazy. You are recovering physically right now, but you are also recovering psychologically – which is an aspect of cardiac recovery few docs or nurses warn heart patients about before discharging us from hospital. So you’re not just feeling physically tired, you’re emotionally tired – which is a whole other kind of tired. Here’s another post you might also find useful: After Your Heart Attack: Now What? I can’t stress enough how important it is for you, especially while you’re waiting to see your cardiologist, to learn as much as you can about heart disease. That way, when you do see him/her, you’ll be better prepared to have a good conversation.
I spent many years working in hospice palliative care before my heart attack, and we knew that people experiencing grief, bereavement and loss very often feel surprisingly exhausted too.
Again, rest as much as you need to (but also get outdoors for a walk every day; your body needs to move just as much as it needs to rest now). Hang in there – one day at a time – and I’m sure you will start noticing that you start feeling a bit better, day by day.
Donna, you may want to see if the Lipitor you’re taking may have side effects which are causing some of your issues. One of the many prescriptions I was ordered to take was Lipitor. The side effects were over the top. I Googled Lipitor and found that there are many side effects the drug maker failed to disclose. As a result, many have filed class action lawsuits. I simply stopped taking it; informed my cardiologist of the side effects, and he prescribed me a different medication which has far less side effects.
I have COPD, asthma, afib and was doing ok walking, exercising light. Then after cancer surgery for my kidney I’d get exhausted easily. Then was told I have congestive heart failure. Some days I feel pretty good not too wore out, but other days can’t even walk around the grocery store with my wife. I feel like I just wanna fall down. My wife feels like I’m exaggerating so it seems.
Art, you are dealing with not just one diagnosis, but a whole whack of complex conditions. No wonder you feel like you want to fall down! I’m guessing you are also taking a whack of prescribed medications, each one to address a different medical diagnosis. Please make an appointment with your GP and ask for a full medication review to make sure your exhaustion isn’t a side effect of one or more (or a combination) of your meds. Also, look into a cardiac rehabiliation program near you; these have been shown to improve quality of life for heart failure patients. It can sometimes be hard for other people to really understand how this kind of exhaustion really feels if they’ve never experienced it themselves. Best of luck to you…
Know the feeling..as I get anxiety related s.o.b. walking 20 feet at times…so went to cardio Dr yesterday and had bloodwork, EKG and echo done – next week PET scan. my lungs seem to keep fluid which does not help… did get some meds adjusted…
I have had pressure or tightness in chest area ever since my heart attack six months ago. It comes and goes, seems to come at the end of the day, cardio doc says nothing wrong with heart, P.F. Put me on anxiety med, felt better but didn’t stop chest tightness from reappearing , now we are getting chest X-ray and pulmonary test, have shortness of breath, always longing for deep breath or attempting to yawn and never completing yawn or getting relief, fatigue in the evening after 12 hr days, go to bed at 8pm, get up at 4am. I am 60 yrs young (ha ha). Discomfort in chest has gotten better with time, it is manageable but makes me tired, when it first started after h.a. It was awful, I called paramedics two times. Hopefully it will heal completely in time, whatever “IT ” is, not sure if there is an answer?
Hello Darrell – I’m not a physician so can’t comment specifically on your situation (and it sounds like some of your tests have not been done yet) but generally speaking, it does sound like your chest symptoms have “gotten better with time” which can mean things are moving in the right direction, more slowly than you would like of course (but it means they’re not getting worse!) Meanwhile, please talk to your doctor about a referral to a counselor, therapist or pastor: as Dr. Stephen Parker (a cardiac psychologist but more importantly, a heart attack survivor himself) likes to say: “A heart attack is a deeply wounding event, and it takes a long time to heal.” Try starting a Symptom Journal, keeping track of including date, time, what activities were you doing in the hours leading up the symptom, etc. You might be able to see a pattern emerging to help explain what’s happening to you. Feeling exhausted can also be a symptom of thyroid conditions – talk to your doctor about that. Best of luck to you…
It’s been a year since my heart attack and I only returned to work a month ago. I am exhausted by the time I get home every day and usually go to bed by 7. Weekends are spent getting as much sleep as my body wants. When will I feel like exercising?
Sarah, I feel for you! You’re describing my “normal” routine these days. You may not “feel like exercising”, but getting outdoors and putting one foot in front of the other can be a good start, whether you feel like it or not. In cardiac rehab, I learned that “motivation FOLLOWS action”, not the other way around!
The realization I finally came to is that I was going to be exhausted by 7pm anyway, whether I walked or not, so I might as well get a walk in before bedtime. Any time of day that works for you will help to break that routine of not moving, because we know that the more time we spend in bed, the less we’ll feel like moving. In your case, you’re also dealing with your back-to-work adjustment, which would be exhausting even without your diagnosis. Ask your doctor for a meds review (some common cardiac meds list fatigue as a side effect) Hang in there…
Hi there I have been reading the advice here and I wonder if anyone has experienced feeling of the stent in your heart area. My treatment was well over a year ago, any help out there?
Hi Jan – I’m not sure what you mean by “feeling of the stent”. The stent itself is such a tiny thin metal mesh tube that it likely couldn’t be “felt” but if you are having symptoms that seem to be coming from your heart, please talk to your physician.
If you already life with a chronic illness with a no-energy component (I’ve had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 27+ years, and had adapted as well as possible), the additional fatigue from these causes (drugs, depression, heart) feels like the end of the world. I had no margin of safety. I have no normal to ‘go back to’ by being patient.
I have hopes that the cardiac rehab – which will be very gentle due to the underlying illness – might improve this fatigue somewhat, but it is really bad right now.
I had a heart attack January 10. I am 42 years old. I keep telling my heart doc I am tired very early in day. I get up about 10:30 am, ready for bed again about four pm. He tries to say it’s not from my heart and my coronary disease but I know myself, been very active all my life. Can someone tell me if this is normal?
Hello Denyelle and thanks for your comment/question. I’m not a physician, but I can tell you that generally this kind of fatigue is very common, post-heart attack. It doesn’t feel “normal” at all, but it is common, and temporary. You are in very early days still. Your body is slowly adjusting, both physically and emotionally – especially since you are such a young woman. This will take time to get through, but there are things you can try to help you (e.g. follow all the tips in this post – and I’d add one more thing to that list: get outdoors every single day for fresh air and exercise, even if you’re just walking around the neighbourhood). Talk to your GP if you don’t see some sign of improvement in the next few weeks. Best of luck to you…
Yeh sounds familiar! I am 66-had a heart attack at 60 and my energy level is way way down, even when I was at the gym. I tire quickly. My main problem nowadays is anxiety about getting tired and out of breath quickly which causes me to slightly start to hyperventilate while even walking around the house! And yes..I have been thoroughly checked with lung CT scans and nuke stress tests…I say to myself..”OK HOW SOON WILL I GET OUT OF BREATH ON THIS VENTURE” It’s a pain
I tire easily, specially shortness of breath with heart failure from the attack…ugh… but I live with it.
I would like to know if other women experience bouts of extreme fatigue years after their heart attack.
I had an MI in November of 2012 at the age of 42. To this day I still experience occasional episodes of acute illness that seem to have no cause. Sometimes I just “hit a wall”, suddenly feel exhausted, and must go lie down. A nap and a few hours of taking it easy, and I start to feel better again. Other times I have days where I need to sleep for 12-16 hours.
None of these episodes seem to have any sort of relationship to my activity levels or routine, just wham! Feel awful. My PCP has run all the tests to see if anything else could be wrong and all came back OK (liver and kidney function, nutritional panel, thryroid, etc.). All my other arteries are clear, according to a CAT scan done last year – no plaque! – my BP and cholesterol are low normal, and I exercise regularly.
Could the scar tissue on my heart be causing this, all these years later?
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Hi Sarina – what an exhausting (and maddening!) situation you find yourself in. I’m not a physician so of course cannot comment specifically on your case, but I can tell you generally that, in the absence of other causes (thyroid, etc) it is entirely possible that heart muscle damage might be the culprit behind your fatigue. I’m not sure if you’ve had an echocardiogram done lately to check on your heart function/valves/ejection fraction – that may help solve the mystery. Best of luck to you…
Good Day to all !
I had mild heart attack on 9 January 17 its now 3 February 17 ….I’m really feeling depressed right now . On certain days I feel like I’m getting better then the next day bang !!! shortness of breath, head spinning feel like a “zombie “. i have Google my tablets (atenolol. ,SIMVASTATIN. Clopidegrol75mg.and half aspirin .just want to know from someone out there how long does this feelings last …please reply. ….
What you’re describing is very common in the early weeks after a heart attack. Many of us experience that up and down recovery (one day feeling better, but next day feeling worse). This will ease up day by day, and you will slowly have more good days than bad. See your doctor if your symptoms get worse, as some side effects of your drugs may be a factor, too. Ask your doctor to refer you to a cardiac rehabilitation program if one is available in your area. If not, start walking outdoors every day, a little farther each day, to help regain your fitness. Meanwhile, start reading this 4-part series on adjusting to your new diagnosis. Best of luck to you…