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Heart Information for a Healthier Life

 

What is a Heart Attack?

As a heart attack survivor, you may know what a heart attack feels like. But do you know what it means for your body? A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or stopped. This happens when an artery that supplies blood to your heart becomes blocked. A blockage is most often caused by the build-up of fat-like substances called ?plaque.? The plaque may create a place where a blood clot forms and blocks the artery.

A heart attack can be a life-altering event. Taking an active role to help prevent a future heart attack may help you lead a full life.

If you have already had a heart attack, your goals should be to:

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Recover and resume normal activities as much as possible

bullet Prevent another heart attack
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Prevent complications, such as heart failure or cardiac arrest

 

Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Having a heart attack increases your chances of having another one. Therefore, it is very important that you and your family know how and when to seek medical attention. As you may already know, some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But, most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. As a reminder, here are some signs that mean a heart attack is happening:

Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

Shortness of breath: May occur with or without chest discomfort.

Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light headedness.

If you or someone you're with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY. Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment.

 

Preventing a Future Heart Attack

Now that you have had a heart attack, educate yourself on how to protect your heart and to prevent a future event. A good start is to ask your healthcare team questions and do your own research about treatment options. Some key things to know to include:

Exercise: Some people who have had a heart attack fear they can no longer live an active life. They also may worry about having another heart attack. But the truth is, with a doctor's approval, and exercise routine can help increase energy, lower blood pressure and build muscle strength to make everyday tasks less tiring. Exercise can also help people feel more positive, confident and cope better with stress.

Diets: Making healthy food choices is important. A heart healthy diet should include eating habits that can be used each and every day. For example, you should limit salt and saturated fat intake, and make smart choices when eating out such as controlling your portion size.

Medicine: Leading cardiologists recommend that heart attack survivors should take beta-blockers. Ask your doctor what medicines are right for you and make sure to take them as prescribed.

 

Get the Right Treatment

Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional about your treatment plan. Since you survived a heart attack, you may already be taking some medication prescribed by your doctor. Below is a list of drugs that may help heart attack survivors.

Beta-Blockers (Beta-adrenergic Blocking Agents): Beta-blockers help lower the heart rate and make the heart pump with less force. This makes it easier for the heart to pump. They also help the heart beat more regularly. Some beta-blockers have been shown to increase the chance of survival or reduce the risk of another heart attack in patients whose hearts have been damaged. Beta-blockers are used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure.

Aspirin: Aspirin helps prevent the recurrence of such events as heart attack, hospitalization for recurrent angina, second strokes, etc. Studies show aspirin also helps prevent these events from occurring in people at high risk (primary prevention).

Statins: Statins are used to treat high cholesterol. Your doctor has prescribed this medicine for you because some parts of your cholesterol panel are outside of the range which your doctor deemed your goal. Your "goal" level of cholesterol depends on your individual cardiac history and other risk factors, and your doctor can tell you your individual goal.

ACE Inhibitors (Angiotensin-converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors): ACE inhibitors slow down the weakening of the heart muscle by decreasing how hard the heart has to work. ACE inhibitors take some of the pressure off of the heart muscle by causing the arteries in the body to dilate, or get bigger. They also block certain chemicals in the body that cause the heart to work harder. ACE inhibitors are often used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. They may also be used to slow the weakening of the heart after a heart attack. Some ACE inhibitors are used to treat kidney problems in patients with diabetes.

 

Live a Full Life After a Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is severely reduced or stopped. This is caused by blockage of one of the coronary arteries that supplies blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack can be a life-altering event, but increased awareness and improved treatments may help heart attack survivors prevent another heart attack and recover to a full, rewarding life. Following are some heartfelt living tips to help you prevent a future heart attack and live a healthy life.

 

Inform and Educate Yourself

Educate yourself about how to prevent a future heart attack and treatment options by asking your healthcare team questions and doing research. Some key things to know include:

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Exercise: Some people who have experienced a heart attack fear they can no longer live an active life or may worry about suffering another heart attack. But the truth is, with a doctor's approval, an exercise routine can help increase energy, lower blood pressure and build muscle strength to make everyday tasks less tiring. Exercise can also help people feel more positive, confident and cope better with stress.

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Diet: Making healthy food choices is important. A heart-healthy diet should include several lifelong eating habits, such as limiting salt and saturated fat intake, and making smart choices when eating out.

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Medicines: Leading cardiologists recommend that heart attack survivors take beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, aspirin and statins to help protect the heart and prevent another heart attack. Ask your doctor what medicines are right for you.

 

Various Resources are Available to Help

A number of resources are available to help you through this time in your life, including organizations such as Mended Hearts (www.mendedhearts.org), a nationwide heart patient support group with a mission to inspire hope in heart disease patients and their families. Other organizations include the American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org), InterAmerican Heart Foundation (www.interamericanheart.org) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (www.nhlbi.nih.gov), which provide information on how to live a heart-healthy life and prevent a future heart attack. In addition, you can ask your healthcare team for information about services such as:

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Emergency response systems

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Visiting home helpers or nurses' aides

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Community pharmacies that deliver

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Home health agencies

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Mental health agencies

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Support groups

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Senior centers

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Meal delivery program

Independent Care

To a certain extent, everyone that has survived a heart attack is their own caregiver. The best way to care for yourself is by following your physician's recommendations for managing your condition and preventing a future heart attack. If needed, take advantage of your community's care giving and support services.

 

New Habits and Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Here are some quick tips for leading a heart-healthy lifestyle and preventing a future heart attack:

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If you smoke, get help to quit

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Control high blood pressure

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Lose weight if you need to

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Take your medicines exactly as prescribed

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If you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is controlled

 

Get the Right Treatment

Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals about your treatment plan. It's very important to make the right choices now to lower the risk of a future heart attack. With guidance from your doctor, the right treatment plan and a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can prevent a future heart attack and live a fuller, longer life!

 

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