What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack (myocardial infarction, or MI) occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries, which supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood, is blocked. A blockage usually occurs when plaque inside the artery breaks open and a blood clot forms in the artery.

After a heart attack, you may be worried about your future. Over the next several weeks, your heart will start to heal. Though it can be hard to break old habits, you can prevent another heart attack by making some lifestyle changes and by taking medicines. You may use this information for ideas about what to do at home to speed your recovery.

Follow-up care is a key part of treatment and safety. Be sure to make follow up appointments and go to all of them. Call the doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Activity after a Heart Attack

  • Until the doctor says it is okay, you should not do strenuous exercise. You should not lift, pull, or push anything heavy. Ask the doctor what types of activities are safe for you.
  • If your doctor has not set up with a cardiac rehabilitation (rehab) program, talk to him or her about whether that is right for you. Cardiac rehab includes supervised exercise. It also includes help with diet, lifestyle changes and emotional support. It may reduce the risk of future heart problems.
  • Increase your activities slowly. You should take short rest breaks when you get tired.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive, go back to work, and do other daily activities again.
  • You should not be taking sildenafil citrate (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra) if you are taking nitroglycerin.

Lifestyle changes

You should not smoke. Smoking increases risk of another heart attack. If you need help quitting, talk to their doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase chances of quitting for good.

You should eat a heart-healthy diet that is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and salt, and is full of fruits, vegetables and whole-grains. 

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Get to the hospital quickly. The longer it takes to get treated, the more your heart may be damaged.

In Both Men and Women:

  • Squeezing chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in chest
  • Pain spreading to shoulders, neck, arm, or jaw
  • Feeling of heartburn or indigestion with or without nausea and vomiting
  • Sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness

Symptoms More Likely in Women:

  • Indigestion or gas-like pain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Unexplained weakness or fatigue
  • Discomfort or pain between the shoulder blades
  • Recurring chest discomfort
  • Sense of impending doom

Your Action Plan:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Provide one aspirin to chew. Heart attacks are caused by blood clots in heart arteries, and aspirin helps reduce these clots.
  • Give CPR if the patient is not breathing.

Warning Signs of a Stroke

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience symptoms; time lost is brain lost!

A stroke is a medical emergency. Remember the FAST warning signs of stroke and teach them to others.

  • F is for Face – One side of the face looks different or droopy
  • A is for Arms – Can’t hold both arms out straight and even
  • S is for Speech – Trouble repeating a simple sentence
  • T is for Time – Get to Emergency immediately

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