How Are Heart Attacks Treated
Treating a heart attack means restoring blood flow to the affected heart muscle as soon as possible. This can happen in a variety of ways, ranging from medication to surgery. Its extremely likely that treatment will use several of the following methods.
People having trouble breathing or with low blood oxygen levels often receive supplementary oxygen along with other heart attack treatments. You can breathe the oxygen either through a tube that sits just below your nose or a mask that fits over your nose and mouth. This increases the amount of oxygen circulating in the blood and reduces the strain on your heart.
- Anti-clotting medications: This includes aspirin and other blood-thinning medicines.
- Nitroglycerin: This medicine relieves chest pain and causes blood vessels to widen so blood can pass through more easily.
- Thrombolytic medications: Providers use these only within the first 12 hours after a heart attack.
- Anti-arrhythmia medications: Heart attacks can often cause malfunctions in your hearts normal beating rhythm called arrhythmias, which can be life-threatening. Anti-arrhythmia medications can stop or prevent these malfunctions.
- Pain medications: The most common pain medication given during heart attack care is morphine. This can help alleviate chest pain.
Percutaneous coronary intervention
Coronary artery bypass grafting
Heart Attack Testing: Faq
Q: Why do I have to submit to a bunch of tests?A: Tests help the doctor determine if a heart attack occurred, how much your heart was damaged and what degree of coronary artery disease you might have. The tests screen your heart and help the doctor determine what treatment and lifestyle changes will keep your heart healthy and prevent serious future medical events.
Q: Whats the difference between invasive and non-invasive tests?A: Non-invasive cardiac tests measure your hearts activity through external imaging and electrocardiography. Invasive tests include drawing and testing samples of your blood, and inserting and threading a thin hollow tube called a catheter into a blood vessel to get an inside view.
Q: How can I learn more about the tests that may be performed?A: These diagnostic tests and procedures can reveal if you had a heart attack, how much damage was done and what degree of coronary artery disease you have.
Q: What types of treatment will I get after the hospital diagnoses my heart attack?A: If youve had a heart attack, you may have already had undergone certain procedures to help you survive your heart attack. Those same procedures can help to diagnose your condition. Such procedures include:
Treatment For A Heart Attack
Understandably, treatment for those diagnosed with heart attack can be complex. But this section on heart attack treatments will help you talk with your doctors and healthcare providers.
As you learn about your treatment plan, dont be afraid to ask questions. Be sure to voice any concerns you may have.
Recommended Reading: Chest Pain High Heart Rate
When To Call The Doctor
If you have any signs of heart disease, call your health care provider right away. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away or dismiss them as nothing.
- You have chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack
- You know you have angina and have chest pain that doesn’t go away after 5 minutes of rest or after taking nitroglycerine
- You think you may be having a heart attack
- You become extremely short of breath
- You think you may have lost consciousness
Common Heart Attack Types And Treatments
The type of heart attack you experienced determines the treatments that your medical team will recommend. A heart attack occurs when a blockage in one or more coronary arteries reduces or stops blood flow to the heart, which starves part of the heart muscle of oxygen.
The blockage might be complete or partial:
- A complete blockage of a coronary artery means you suffered a STEMI heart attack or ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
- A partial blockage is an NSTEMI heart attack or a non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction
Treatments differ for a STEMI versus NSTEMI heart attack, although there can be some overlap.
Hospitals commonly use techniques to restore blood flow to part of the heart muscle damaged during a heart attack:
- You might receive clot-dissolving drugs , balloon angioplasty , surgery or a combination of treatments.
- About 36 percent of hospitals in the U.S. are equipped to use a procedure called percutaneous coronary intervention , a mechanical means of treating heart attack.
At a hospital equipped to administer PCI, you would likely be sent to a department that specializes in cardiac catheterization, sometimes called a cath lab. There, a diagnostic angiogram can examine blood flow to your heart and reveal how well your heart is pumping. Depending on the results of that procedure, you may be routed to one of three treatments: medical therapy only, PCI or coronary artery bypass grafting .
Recommended Reading: Double Bypass Heart Surgery
What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Attack
The major symptoms of a heart attack are
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint. You may also break out into a cold sweat.
- Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders.
- Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort, but shortness of breath also can happen before chest discomfort.
Other symptoms of a heart attack could include unusual or unexplained tiredness and nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely to have these other symptoms. Learn more about women and heart disease.
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.1Learn more facts about heart attack and heart disease.
What Do You Do If You Have A Heart Attack
If you have any of the listed symptoms:
- tell someone and ask them to get help right away
The faster you get help, the better your chances of surviving a heart attack. Half of heart attack deaths happen within 2 hours of the first signs.
On average, Canadians wait almost 5 hours before getting medical help. Many people find it hard to believe that they are having a heart attack. They convince themselves that the symptoms are something else and that they will go away.
Not getting help for your symptoms could lead to death. New therapies and drugs can reduce damage and save your life if treatment begins soon enough. Your health care provider will work with you to determine treatment and recovery needs.
If you have suffered a heart attack, having important health information close by can help medical staff treat you. Carry personal health information with you at all times and have it posted by your phone. You may not be able to tell medical staff this information yourself, depending on your condition.
Your list should include:
- telephone and health care number
- medical history
- current medications
- health care provider
- health insurance number for expenses that are not covered under provincial health insurance plans, such as:
- ambulance services
You May Like: What Is A Good Resting Heart Rate By Age
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
After youve had a heart attack, youre at a higher risk of a similar occurrence. Your healthcare provider will likely recommend follow-up monitoring, testing and care to avoid future heart attacks. Some of these include:
- Heart scans: Similar to the methods used to diagnose a heart attack, these can assess the effects of your heart attack and determine if you have permanent heart damage. They can also look for signs of heart and circulatory problems that increase the chance of future heart attacks.
- Stress test: These heart tests and scans that take place while youre exercising can show potential problems that stand out only when your heart is working harder.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: These programs help you improve your overall health and lifestyle, which can prevent another heart attack.
Additionally, youll continue to take medicines some of the ones you received for immediate treatment of your heart attack long-term. These include:
- Aspirin and other blood-thinning agents.
What Do I Do If I Have A Heart Attack
After a heart attack, you need quick treatment to open the blocked artery and lessen the damage. At the first signs of a heart attack, call 911. The best time to treat a heart attack is within 1 or 2 hours after symptoms begin. Waiting longer means more damage to your heart and a lower chance of survival.
Read Also: Acute Decompensation Of Heart Failure
Dont Hesitate To Call 911
Learn the signs for heart attack, and remember: Even if youre not sure its a heart attack, have it checked out.
Minutes matter. Fast action can save lives – maybe your own.
if you experience heart attack warning signs. Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.
An emergency medical services team can begin treatment when they arrive up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.
For many reasons, its best to call 911 so that an experienced EMS team can begin treatment and arrange rapid transport to the emergency room.
How Heart Attack Symptoms May Differ For People With Diabetes
Research has shown that people with diabetes are more likely to have silent heart attacks compared to people who dont have diabetes. In other words, if you have diabetes, you may not experience the typical symptoms associated with a heart attack, especially chest pain.
Many studies have been done to better understand why people with diabetes are less likely to experience chest pain and other heart attack symptoms. One explanation is that the development of neuropathy a type of nerve damage thats a common complication of diabetes may interfere with the ability to feel chest pain caused by a heart attack.
Because of this risk, its important that people with diabetes keep their blood sugar levels under control, get frequent blood tests to check cholesterol levels, and work closely with a doctor to ensure their diabetes is managed well.
You May Like: Heart Failure Congestive
Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
In recent decades, scientists have realized that heart attack symptoms can be quite different for women than for men.
While pain and squeezing sensations in the chest are still the most common symptoms in women, many frequently self-reported symptoms differ greatly from those common in men. Lack of knowledge about the differences in symptoms across genders may be one of the reasons why women generally wait longer than men do to seek out care if they suspect they are having a heart attack.
Symptoms of heart attack in women include:
- unusual fatigue lasting for several days or sudden severe fatigue
- sleep disturbances
- upper back, shoulder, or throat pain
- jaw pain or pain that spreads up to your jaw
- pressure or pain in the center of your chest, which may spread to your arm
Base your decision to seek care on what feels normal and abnormal for you. If you are experiencing symptoms that feel new to you, and dont agree with your doctors conclusion, get a second opinion.
Symptoms Vary Between Men And Women
As with men, womens most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Don’t Miss: Why Do Anti Inflammatories Cause Heart Attacks
About Half Of All Heart Attacks Are Mistaken For Less Serious Problems And Can Increase Your Risk Of Dying From Coronary Artery Disease
Image: goir/Getty Images
You can have a heart attack and not even know it. A silent heart attack, known as a silent myocardial infarction , account for 45% of heart attacks and strike men more than women.
They are described as “silent” because when they occur, their symptoms lack the intensity of a classic heart attack, such as extreme chest pain and pressure stabbing pain in the arm, neck, or jaw sudden shortness of breath sweating, and dizziness.
“SMI symptoms can feel so mild, and be so brief, they often get confused for regular discomfort or another less serious problem, and thus men ignore them,” says Dr. Jorge Plutzky, director of the vascular disease prevention program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
For instance, men may feel fatigue or physical discomfort and chalk it up to overwork, poor sleep, or some general age-related ache or pain. Other typical symptoms like mild pain in the throat or chest can be confused with gastric reflux, indigestion, and heartburn.
Also, the location of pain is sometimes misunderstood. With SMI, you may feel discomfort in the center of the chest and not a sharp pain on the left side of the chest, which many people associate with a heart attack. “People can even feel completely normal during an SMI and afterward, too, which further adds to the chance of missing the warning signs,” says Dr. Plutzky.
Take Care Of Yourself
Heart disease is preventable. Here are Goldbergs top tips:
- Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease.
- Quit smoking. Did you know that just one year after you quit, youll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent?
- Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
- Modify your familys diet if needed. Check out these healthy cooking tips. Youll learn smart substitutions, healthy snacking ideas and better prep methods. For example, with poultry, use the leaner light meat instead of the fattier dark meat , and be sure to remove the skin.
How Heart Attack Symptoms Vary Between Men And Women
We use women and men in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with how your body experiences symptoms of a heart attack. Your doctor can better help you understand how your specific circumstances will translate into symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.
Many people experience a mix of heart attack symptoms regardless of sex or gender. However, there are sex-specific differences in the presentation, biology, and outcomes of heart attacks.
A women , the pain is often described as tightness, squeezing, or pressure in the chest, while men tend to describe it as a heavy weight on the chest.
According to the American Heart Association , women are somewhat more likely than men to experience the following heart attack symptoms:
- shortness of breath
- pain in the upper back or jaw
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- extreme fatigue
Higher levels of estrogen can reduce the risk of a heart attack. As a result, women have a greater risk of a heart attack after menopause than before menopause.
However, women who have a heart attack are more at risk of underdiagnosis and undertreatment.
For example, a 2018 Swiss study found that women tend to wait longer to contact emergency services after experiencing typical heart attack symptoms. Researchers also found that women tend to experience greater delays in receiving treatment in emergency settings.
Managing Heart Attack Risk Factors
Here are ways to manage your risks for a heart attack:
- Look at which risk factors apply to you, then take steps to eliminate or reduce them.
- Learn about high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. These may be “silent killers.”
- Change risk factors that aren’t inherited by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out how to do so.
- Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if you have risk factors that can’t be changed. These can be managed with medicine and lifestyle changes.
Don’t Miss: Is Congestive Heart Failure Reversible
What Causes A Heart Attack
The vast majority of heart attacks occur because of a blockage in one of the blood vessels that supplies your heart. This most often happens because of plaque, a sticky substance that can build up on the insides of your arteries . That buildup is called atherosclerosis.
Sometimes, plaque deposits inside the coronary arteries can break open or rupture, and a blood clot can get stuck where the rupture happened. If the clot blocks the artery, this can deprive the heart muscle of blood and cause a heart attack.
Heart attacks are possible without a blockage, but this is rare and only accounts for about 5% of all heart attacks. This kind of heart attack can occur for the following reasons:
History of preeclampsia during pregnancy.
Eating disorders .
Complications Of A Heart Attack
Sometimes there are complications following a heart attack. The most common complications after a heart attack are:
- arrhythmias – problems with your hearts natural electrical rhythm
- heart failure – when the heart isn’t pumping blood around the body as well as it should
Many problems resolve themselves quite quickly. However, sometimes problems linger and can often be helped by medication.
Recommended Reading: At What Heart Rate Do You Burn Fat