Treating And Recovering From A Heart Attack

December 7, 2023

A heart attack, otherwise called a myocardial infarction, happens if blood cannot reach the heart. Heart attacks are medical emergencies that require immediate care. Symptoms include tightness in the chest, an abnormal heart rhythm, lightheadedness, and pain in the jaw, neck, back, and arm. Some individuals having a heart attack may only have symptoms such as fatigue and sudden heartburn, which may be mistakenly attributed to other less serious conditions, though this is more common in females than in males. The risk of a heart attack increases with age, and the average age for a first heart attack is sixty-six for men and seventy for women. Obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, and hypertension are additional risk factors for heart attacks. The following methods can help to treat heart attacks and reduce the risk of recurrence.

Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery

Coronary artery bypass surgery, which is among the most commonly performed operations in the United States, reroutes blood around a damaged or blocked area of heart muscle. It is recommended for individuals who have heart disease and also for those who have had heart attacks. The procedure takes three to six hours to complete and is done with the patient under general anesthesia so they are asleep throughout the surgery. Before having bypass surgery, patients will undergo a series of tests to check the procedure is appropriate for them and they are healthy enough to have the operation. Doctors will thoroughly examine the patient's heart rate, rhythm, and breathing, and tests such as electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, exercise stress tests, and coronary angiograms may be completed to give surgeons complete information about the location and extent of existing blockages.

Following the coronary artery bypass surgery, patients usually stay in an intensive care unit for two to three days, and many can leave the hospital after four or five days. Most patients typically need at least four to six weeks of recovery time at home before they can return to work.

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Cardiac Rehabilitation

During recovery from heart surgery, patients will often be enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation program. These programs are delivered on an outpatient basis and focus on teaching patients how to adopt healthy habits that may improve their quality of life and prevent future heart attacks or other heart problems. The programs, which are tailored to each patient's needs, can help patients quit smoking and adopt healthier diets. Consultations with specially trained nutritionists are often included. These individuals can help patients plan diets that support their recovery following surgery. Exercise is a major component of cardiac rehabilitation, and patients are supported by personal trainers, physical therapists, and medical staff who teach them how to exercise safely and supervise some of their exercise sessions. Counseling services are also available to help patients cope with and reduce any stress, anxiety, or other mental health concerns they may be experiencing.

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Blood Thinning Medication

Medically known as anticoagulants or antiplatelet medicines, blood thinning medication helps prevent the formation of clots in the blood and stop existing clots from growing. These drugs are often recommended to patients who are at risk of a cardiac event and to those who have already experienced a heart attack. Some of the most commonly used blood thinners include apixaban, dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and warfarin. In addition to these oral medications, stronger blood thinners such as heparin and fondaparinux can be given with an IV or injection to patients with the highest cardiac risk. The most common side effects of blood thinning medication are bruising easily and experiencing higher than average blood loss from minor scrapes. More serious side effects of blood thinners include heavy menstrual periods, blood in the urine, bleeding gums, nosebleeds, dizziness, and headaches or stomach aches. Some types of blood thinners require close monitoring, including frequent blood tests. Patients preparing for surgery will likely be required to stop taking blood thinners for a few days before the procedure to avoid possible complications.

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Beta Blocker Medication

Beta blocker medication helps slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure. Beta blockers are often recommended to patients who have had heart attacks and can be helpful in preventing a future cardiac episode. The drugs reduce the strain placed on the heart and help blood vessels relax so that blood can flow more easily. The most common beta blockers include atenolol, carvedilol, metoprolol, penbutolol, and propranolol. Patients taking beta blockers may be asked by their doctors to keep a diary of their pulse and blood pressure measurements at home. Common side effects include weight gain, depression, insomnia, shortness of breath, swelling of the hands or feet, cold hands and feet, and vivid dreams. Patients who cannot tolerate the side effects of their beta blocker may be able to change to a different medication with fewer side effects. Like blood thinners, beta blockers may need to be stopped for a few days before any surgery, including dental procedures.

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Coronary Angioplasty And Stenting

Coronary angioplasty and stenting are surgical procedures that help reopen blocked arteries. These procedures can often be done with the patient fully awake. Typically, doctors begin the coronary angioplasty and stenting procedure by numbing the skin around an artery in the patient's wrist or groin. A catheter is carefully inserted into the artery and travels until it reaches the blocked vessel in the patient's heart. X-rays and other images are taken during the procedure to help doctors see blockages and guide the catheter to the correct location. Once they have properly assessed the damage to the vessel, surgeons will decide to use an inflatable balloon or a metal piece (a stent) to hold the blocked artery in an open position. If arteries in the groin were used, patients usually need to lie flat for six hours after the procedure. Sometimes, patients may be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation.

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