After surviving a heart attack, patients who take part in a lifestyle improvement program may feel better, specifically when participating in additional physical activity, according to a study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology.

Previous research has shown a link between cardiac rehabilitation and improved quality of life in heart attack patients. However, most of these studies were conducted prior to procedures and modern drugs, such as statins, to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and stents to open clogged arteries, according to the study authors.

Lifestyle classes, or cardiac rehabilitation, are typically offered to heart attack patients unless the patient has a particular reason why it is not suitable for them. These classes include exercise, smoking cessation, advice on diet and stress management, and the importance of taking medications.

The researchers investigated the impact of those classes on how heart attack patients feel about their physical and mental health, or “health-related quality of life.”

The EMMACE-3 study recruited 4570 patients who were admitted to 48 hospitals across England with suspected heart attack from 2011 to 2013. A questionnaire was completed by each patient while in the hospital, and then 1, 6, and 12 months after discharge. The questions included whether they attended cardiac rehabilitation, their perceived quality of life, and their physical activity levels.

The study found that patients who attended cardiac rehabilitation had a higher quality of life at all time points compared with those who did not, according to the study authors. Patients who went to cardiac rehabilitation and exercised 150 minutes or more per week had even higher quality of life scores compared to those who did neither.

"Cardiac rehabilitation involves not only exercise but also advice on lifestyle and medications which likely all contribute to making people feel better,” said study author Ben Hardus, MD, of the University of Leeds, UK, in a press release. “There are also the added social benefits such as being around other people in a similar situation and having that shared sense of community. People who also do more than the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of activity per week report even higher quality of life."

After a heart attack, physical activity makes you feel better. ScienceDaily. Published April 24, 2020. Accessed May 4, 2020.