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Heart Disease and Heart Attacks

How Is a Heart Attack Treated?

Once a heart attack is diagnosed, treatment begins immediately -- possibly in the ambulance or emergency room. Drugs, catheter-based procedures, and surgery are used to treat a heart attack.

What Drugs Are Used to Treat a Heart Attack?

The goals of drug therapy are to break up or prevent blood clots, prevent platelets from gathering and sticking to the plaque, stabilize the plaque, and prevent further damage.

These medications must be given as soon as possible to decrease the amount of heart damage. The longer the delay in starting these drugs, the more damage can occur and the less benefit they can provide.

Drugs used to treat a heart attack may include:

Other drugs, given during or after a heart attack, lessen your heart's workload, improve the functioning of the heart, widen or dilate your blood vessels, decrease your pain, and guard against any life-threatening heart rhythms.

What Other Heart Attack Treatment Options Are There?

During or shortly after a heart attack, you may go to the cardiac catheterization lab for direct evaluation of the status of your heart, arteries, and the amount of heart damage. In some cases, procedures (such as balloon angioplasty or stents) are used to open up your narrowed or blocked arteries. These procedures may be combined with thrombolytic therapy (drug treatments) to open up the narrowed arteries, as well as to break up any clots that are blocking them.

If necessary, bypass surgery may be performed to restore the heart muscle's supply of blood.

Treatments (medications, open heart surgery, and interventional procedures, like angioplasty) do not cure coronary artery disease. Having had a heart attack or treatment does not mean you will never have another heart attack; it can happen again. But, there are several steps you can take to prevent further attacks.

How Are Future Heart Attacks Prevented?

The goal after a heart attack is to keep the heart healthy and reduce the risks of having another heart attack. Your best opportunities to ward off future attacks is to take your medications, change your lifestyle, and see your doctor for regular heart checkups.

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