Work - heart conditions

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With the right information and support many people continue to work

If you have a heart condition then you may be able to continue working, as long as your doctor feels it is safe for you to do so. Your doctor will need to consider your physical condition as well as the type of job you do.

How to cope with returning to work

  • It is important that you are honest with your employer and close colleagues so that you do not put yourself under too much pressure. Flexible working patterns can be useful to begin with.
  • Build up both physical and mental activity gradually.
  • Be honest and realistic about how you are getting on.
  • You may feel unexpectedly tired by your work at first; avoid stressful situations and go to bed early.
  • Where physical requirements are too much for you, it may be necessary to retrain or find alternative duties at your workplace. If your work has an occupational health department, they can be a useful source of support and information.
  • If you are told you cannot continue in your previous employment there is help available for retraining or changing occupation. Ask for an appointment to discuss this at your local job centre or careers advice department.

When your job is mentally demanding or stressful it is important to learn some stress management skills, including time management. A simple rule of thumb regarding time management is to split your day into thirds: one third sleep, one third work and one third social and leisure activities.

You may find it useful to learn relaxation techniques and practice breathing control exercises. These can help minimise the effects that stress and anxiety have on your life.

Working if you have angina

  • For safety reasons, some people cannot continue to work, e.g. pilots, divers, those who operate heavy machinery or those whose jobs are excessively physically or mentally demanding.
  • It is important that you are honest with your employer and close colleagues so that you do not put yourself under too much pressure. Flexible working patterns can be useful especially if you have good and bad days.
  • Where physical requirements are too much for you, it may be necessary to retrain or find alternative duties at your workplace. If your work has an occupational health department, this can be a useful source of support and information.
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Returning to work after a heart attack

Unless your doctor advises against it there is no reason why you shouldn't be aiming to get back to work.

You can usually expect to do this within a few months but everyone's circumstances are different, so don't compare yourself with others. The length of time off work will depend on what your job is. For example:

  • Someone who sits at a desk all day may be able to return to work quicker than someone who has a very physical job.
  • Someone working in a low pressure environment may be able to return to work quicker than someone with a very mentally demanding and stressful job.

Working if you have high blood pressure

If your blood pressure is well controlled then you should be able to continue working.

  • However, there are certain jobs that you may not be able to do or you may have to restrict your duties.
  • If you work as a diver, submariner or airline pilot then it is unlikely that you will be able to continue working. This is because extreme changes in speed and / or pressure can sometimes cause problems if you have high blood pressure.

If you work with machinery you must discuss this with your doctor, before any treatment is prescribed, as some drugs can make you drowsy.

Be honest with your employer. Sometimes you may need a medical examination to fulfil conditions for pension funds and insurance purposes. If you decide that the physical requirements of your job are too much for you it may be necessary to retrain or find alternative duties at your workplace. If your work has an occupational health department, they can be a useful source of support and information.

Working if you have a pacemaker

  • Apart from electric welding equipment there is no reason why having a pacemaker should affect your work.
  • You should discuss, with your doctor, what equipment is dangerous to use and how close you can be to electrical equipment. Tell your employer about your pacemaker and ask them to contact your doctor if they need any advice.

Working if you have an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

  • Most ICDs are designed with built-in features to protect them from the common types of electrical interference that you might encounter. You should talk to your doctor about what equipment is dangerous to use at work e.g. electric welding equipment, operating machinery etc.
  • Tell your employer about your ICD and ask them to contact your doctor if they need any advice.

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