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Heart Attack Causes and Treatments

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Conventional Medicine for a Heart Attack continued...

While hospitalized, heart attack patients are hooked to electrocardiogram machines for constant monitoring, in case heart rhythm abnormalities develop. If the heart starts beating too fast or too slow, various medications may be given. Some patients may be fitted with pacemakers. If a patient experiences a dangerous arrhythmia known as ventricular fibrillation, an electric shock to the chest is given. Patients who show signs of congestive heart failure are given a variety of medications to decrease strain on the heart and to encourage the heart to beat more forcefully.

People recovering from a heart attack are urged to get back on their feet as quickly as possible, which reduces the chances of blood clots forming in the deep veins of the legs; the clots could travel through the circulatory system and lodge in the lung, creating a blockage. Gentle exercise is recommended, but nothing that requires significant exertion. Long-term recovery from heart attack requires psychological and lifestyle adjustments: Habits that need to go include smoking, heavy drinking, and eating high-fat foods.

As a preventive measure, most heart attack survivors take a daily aspirin tablet to thin the blood. Other drugs may also be prescribed, depending on the patient.

Some patients require invasive procedures to improve blood flow to the heart over the long term. The two most common procedures are angioplasty -- a catheter technique that widens clogged arteries by breaking up plaques -- and coronary bypass surgery, which diverts blood flow around clogged arteries.

Lifestyle After a Heart Attack

Regular aerobic exercise greatly enhances efforts to prevent or recover from a heart attack. If you already have a heart condition, schedule a stress test before beginning an exercise program in order to determine how much exertion is safe. Heart attack survivors are advised to exercise with other people rather than alone during the first months of recovery. Many community health and recreation centers offer physician-supervised cardiovascular rehabilitation programs.

Mind/Body Medicine After a Heart Attack

Reducing stress may be one of the risk factors that you can control to help prevent a heart attack and aid recovery. Many techniques promote relaxation -- among them, meditation, biofeedback, and yoga. Relaxation has also been shown to provide relief from pain, which may be encountered during the recovery period.

State of mind is another important consideration in heart attack recovery. People with a positive attitude about recovery tend to do much better. You may find that a particular mind/body technique helps you to focus on positive thoughts. You may also find, as many others have, that sharing thoughts and emotions with a support group is extremely beneficial.

Nutrition and Diet After a Heart Attack

The basic goals of a heart-healthy diet are to keep salt, sugar, and saturated fat to a minimum to control cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight. Eating magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, beans, bran, fish, and dark green vegetables may help prevent a heart attack. Magnesium protects the heart directly and indirectly, by stabilizing heart rate, reducing coronary artery spasm, and combating such conditions as atherosclerosis and high blood pressure.

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