There are a number of treatment options. Treatments work best when they are given immediately after symptoms occur – within the first 1-2 hours. Early treatment to open up the blockage can help prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle.
In an emergency, when your health care team thinks a heart attack is likely, you may be started on:
- Oxygen therapy
- Aspirin and other antiplatelet agents to thin your blood and prevent further clotting
- Nitroglycerin to help improve blood flow through the heart’s arteries
- Pain relief medications like morphine to address any chest pain
- Anticoagulants to prevent further clotting
- Beta blockers to reduce workload on the heart by decreasing the heart rate and blood pressure
If your care team confirms you are having a heart attack, treatments usually include procedures, surgery, or medications, and lifestyle changes.
- Coronary angioplasty, also called a percutaneous coronary intervention, to open blocked arteries. In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube is threaded through a blood vessel, usually in the wrist or upper thigh, to the blocked artery. A stent is placed to open up the artery and restore blood flow. This is the best treatment of heart attacks and has the best outcomes when done within two hours.
- Heart bypass surgery to insert segments of arteries or veins around the obstruction and bypass the blockage and restore blood flow to the heart.
- Implantable device to protect against abnormal heart rhythms that could kill you or to make sure your heart rhythm is normal and stable. This therapy, if needed, is usually offered about one month after a heart attack.
- Clot-busting medications are usually given within hours of a heart attack to dissolve any blood clots blocking the artery. This is usually given in situations when angioplasty cannot be performed because there are delays getting the patient to a facility with a catheterization lab.
- Beta blockers can slow a rapid heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
- ACE inhibitors relax your blood vessels and reduce strain on your heart. They also lower blood pressure.
- Statins help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), also called the “bad” cholesterol, in your blood. Lowering your LDL helps lower your risk of a heart attack.
- Aspirin and other antiplatelet agents may be prescribed.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a medically supervised program to help people recover from a heart attack and live a heart healthier life.
Following a better diet, getting routine exercise, quitting smoking, and keeping up with health visits and advice are very important steps you can take to improve your health.
You can take steps to help prevent a heart attack or strengthen your heart after having one.
- Eat a heart-healthy, plant-rich diet
- Lose weight if you need to
- Be physically active – talk with your health care team about the best program for you
- Don’t smoke
- Limit alcohol
- Ask about cardiac rehabilitation
- Keep in check other conditions that make a heart attack more likely (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, poorly controlled diabetes)
- Reduce stress levels
- Keep up with health visits and pay attention to your body and how you feel. Talk to your care team about any issues or concerns with your medications.