Heart attack treatment options

  • Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:21 a.m.

Rowan Regional Medical Center

Not everyone who has had a heart attack needs open-heart surgery, such as a bypass operation. A procedure known as angioplasty can help unblock arteries. And people can do well with medication, gradual exercise and healthy lifestyle changes. These different types of treatment can help you manage heart problems and prevent another heart attack.


A heart attack can happen as a result of a narrowed or blocked artery. This prevents enough blood from reaching the heart. Sometimes, the artery can be opened up with a procedure called angioplasty.

Angioplasty is performed on more than 1 million people in the United States every year. It involves inserting a small hollow tube into or near the blocked artery. A balloon on the end of the tube is inflated. This pushes open the artery walls so that blood flows better. Often, a small mesh tube called a stent is placed inside the artery. This props it open and helps keep it from closing up again. Very rarely, during the procedure, a laser or other device is sometimes used to dissolve or cut away artery-clogging plaque.


Your healthcare provider may prescribe different types of medication for you to use after a heart attack. Hereís how commonly prescribed drugs can help:

Aspirin and other antiplatelet drugs prevent clots that form when blood cells called platelets clump together.

Anticoagulants prevent the blood from clotting and stop existing clots from getting bigger.

Beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors lower blood pressure. This means the heart doesnít have to work as hard. Beta-blockers also control irregular heartbeats and relieve chest pain.

Statins lower blood cholesterol, helping prevent clogged arteries.

Some people decide on their own to stop taking one or more of their medications a few weeks or months after they get out of the hospital. This is a terrible mistake and can increase the risk of further damage to the heart or even death. Continuing to take medications, however, can help you feel better and live longer. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are confused about your medications, are concerned about cost or have unpleasant side effects from any drug.

Exercise and lifestyle changes

By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can help improve your heart health and prevent another heart attack:

Get regular exercise. Walking, for example, can be a great way to help your heart regain its strength. Talk with your healthcare provider to learn safe ways to exercise. Participating in physical activity on a regular basis can also help you control emotions such as stress or depression, which are common feelings in people who have experienced a heart attack.

Quit smoking. For those who smoke, this is the most important step. Itís never easy, but several things can help: nicotine patches and gum, certain medications and group or self-help smoking-cessation programs.

Eat a heart-healthy diet. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Include several daily servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease eat fish at least twice a week or take fish oil capsules with their healthcare providerís approval. This type of eating plan can help you control your weight, blood cholesterol and blood pressure. Your healthcare provider can help you plan a diet that includes your favorite foods.

With the right treatment and healthy changes in lifestyle, you can reduce your chance for a second heart attack. Youíll worry less and feel better. Those are benefits worth working for.

Rowan Regional Medical Center is ready to treat heart attacks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our Cleveland Clinic-trained interventional cardiologists offer advanced treatments in the fight against heart disease. To learn more visit, www.rowan.org/heart.

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