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For the most part, you should be able to resume driving about two weeks after a heart attack.

Getting your life back on track after a heart attack isn't easy. The recovery process might feature some standard milestones but is still very different from one person to another. If you let negative emotions get in the way, you will find it increasingly more difficult to resume your activities from before the heart attack. Two of the most common questions that heart attack survivors have are related to when they can resume driving or travel. What do you need to know?

Driving after a heart attack

People who have just suffered a heart attack do, obviously, need to recover before they get back behind the wheel. It is important for you to know the law in regard to resuming your driving privileges, but regardless of where you live, you will almost certainly need your doctor's approval before you can drive after a heart attack.

The recovery period will vary depending on whether you’ve had an intervention performed or not, so consulting your doctor can give you more accurate information on how long it takes before you can drive again. Plenty of heart attack survivors can resume driving one week after the event, but others will have to wait until two to four weeks have passed.

If you want to start driving your personal car as soon as possible, you should know:

  • It takes at least four weeks to recover from a coronary artery bypass graft surgery. This open-heart intervention is a complicated medical procedure, where doctors create a new path for blood to flow to your heart. By taking a healthy artery from one of your limbs, they will redirect the blood past the blockage site, so that blood can reach your heart and bypass the clot.
  • Those of you who suffered a heart attack but didn’t require any intervention and are only on medication should normally be cleared for driving about one or two weeks after the heart attack.
  • People who had a coronary angioplasty with stent insertion will have to wait for at least two weeks before driving. A coronary angioplasty is a medical intervention that requires inserting a catheter through the groin all the way to the heart’s narrow coronary artery. With a balloon placed at the tip of the catheter, the doctor will push the coronary artery walls further apart from one another, basically making room for blood to flow normally. However, there are cases where deflating and removing the balloon might cause the artery walls to come closer once more, in which case a stent is required. The stent is nothing more than a fine-mesh tube that will permanently stay inside the artery to keep it open.

Those of you experiencing anxiety about driving after a heart attack should avoid driving alone for a while, or always drive on short routes until you regain your confidence. You will most likely have to inform your insurance company about your heart condition so that you can be covered. Keep in mind that some companies may not provide you with the coverage you want if you resume driving earlier than recommended.

People who drive commercial vehicles (this includes forklifts, buses, trucks, etc.) have to abide by different rules when it comes to driving after a heart attack:

  • You have to wait at least four weeks if you’ve had a heart attack or a coronary angioplasty with stent insertion.
  • You have to wait at least three months if you’ve had a coronary artery bypass graft intervention.

Legal implications of driving after a heart attack

Most countries have laws that require patients to inform the authorities about a medical problem that could affect their driving potential, and a heart attack classifies as such a condition. The moment you’re cleared to resume driving, you have to inform the local licensing agency.

When doing so, you will not be prohibited from driving, but you might have to abide by certain restrictions in order to be safe and keep others safe while in traffic.

Depending on the laws in your territory, you might be required to:

  • Show medical proof that you have been cleared for driving.
  • Show proof that you are responding well to your heart attack treatment.
  • Check in with your doctor periodically (which is something that you should do regardless of whether you drive or not).
  • Not suffer from any bone and muscle pain after your intervention.

Traveling after a heart attack

Traveling is possible right after a heart attack, especially if you’re in a tram, bus, train, or a car driven by someone else. However, long trips can really take it out of you, so you want to avoid them at least during the first few weeks after a heart attack.

While taking public transportation is not prohibited, you should look to sit down, because you might feel dizzier than usual. It’s also likely for you to feel car sick more easily than before. People who drive with someone else should place a cushion between the seat belt and the chest if they’ve had coronary artery bypass surgery, to avoid putting too much pressure on the wound.

If you’re taking a trip that requires travel insurance, know that a heart attack can change the terms of the insurance. Some companies may ask that you give them a medical clearance form. If you’re traveling by plane, talk to the airline about the requirements they have.

Conclusion

Most people should be able to resume driving about two weeks after having a heart attack. Traveling is also possible, but you might have to take some additional measures first, regardless of whether you’re using public transportation or catching a ride in someone else’s personal car.

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