by Caleb Patee, DO, MPH

If our hearts are the engine of our bodies, what happens when injuries take their toll on the piece of machinery that keeps our bodies going? Work Right seeks to prevent these injuries from happening, but when they do, are you prepared for what comes after? Cardiac arrest and cardiac events make an enormous impact on our bodies. As industrial athletes, let’s consider what the impact can mean for our mindset, our lifestyle, and a return to work.


The instance of a cardiac event is unexpected and abrupt. Your life comes to a screeching halt. Work tasks, scheduling crunches, honey-do lists, and other life drama don’t seem to matter so much. 

But sudden change can be difficult. Understand that after a cardiac event, your life will almost certainly be different going forward. There will be new medications, new doctor appointments among other things. Not only does the event or surgery take a toll on your body, cardiac events have been known to place a strain on a person’s mental health. Along with your cardiac diagnosis, depression and anxiety have been known to be a secondary diagnosis. 


If your life is going to be different, what does different mean? 

The foundation of health is lifestyle. What we eat, how we move, how we deal with stress, and what social choices we are making help to determine our long term outcomes. After a heart event, there is no difference with the importance of these choices. The greatest difference is you could be working with even less heart to tolerate bad choices. 

In the case of heart attacks, about one in five people will be readmitted to the hospital for a second one within 5 years. Prioritizing self-care is a must for your new lifestyle. 

– Get enough sleep
– Refrain from overcommitting to stressful tasks
Relax your mind and body with activities like reading or exercise
Seek support from family or social groups, along with forms of talk therapy

Return to Work

As industrial athletes, what does this mean for the work you do after such a cardiac event?

Cardiac rehab is a safe and effective way to test your heart. The role of rehab is to strengthen a previously damaged heart. The heart is a muscle, and similar to a torn or strained biceps, it takes time to get it back to near normal. The heart needs oxygen and strain in order for it to build, but put too much strain on the heart and this can lead to progression of underlying heart disease. This is where rehab helps to find the appropriate range of enough work to build strength, but not so much to cause damage.

As you progress, an industrial athlete should be on the lookout for further signs of heart disease. Symptoms can include:

– Chest pain
– Progressive shortness of breathe
Reduced exercise capacity
Rapid heart rate disproportionate to your activity
– Unrelenting jaw, neck, or arm pain

While being closely monitored for heart associated symptoms, a rehab specialist will slowly progress your endurance back to your baseline, or possibly better. Due to the changes that occurred with the cardiac event, a person’s baseline may no longer be the same. Finding out one’s abilities within their new heart’s capacity is important to return to everyday work and life safely. 

Caleb Patee, DO, MPH || Dr. Patee is a family medicine physician who enjoys building relationships while discussing preventative medicine and implementing disease management strategies. He has a special interest in the interchange of healthcare and technology. How technology can be used to reach more patients to help progress preventative medicine and improve overall health of patients.

Be sure to check out our other blogs for further injury prevention education and tips for the industrial athlete from Work Right NW!