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. 

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if: 

You have symptoms of a heart attack.These may include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly or in one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • They have angina symptoms (such as chest pain or pressure) that do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin.
  • They passed out (lost consciousness).
  • They feel like they are having another heart attack.

After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not drive yourself

Call doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • They are having angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, more often than usual, or the symptoms are different or worse than usual.
  • They have new or increased shortness of breath.
  • They are dizzy or lightheaded, or they feel like they may faint.

Watch closely for changes in their health, and be sure to contact doctor if they have any problems.

Make a cardiology appointment

Request an appointment or call (844) 725-6424.