Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Heart Attack
Not everyone who has had a heart attack needs open-heart surgery, such as a bypass
operation. A procedure known as angioplasty with coronary artery stenting can help
unblock arteries. It's also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI). People
can also do well with just medicine, gradual exercise, and healthy lifestyle changes.
These different types of treatment can help you manage heart problems and prevent
another heart attack:
Angioplasty and coronary artery stenting
A heart attack can happen as a result of a narrowed or blocked artery. This prevents
oxygenated blood from reaching all the areas of the heart. Sometimes, the artery can
be opened up with a procedure called angioplasty.
Angioplasty 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. It props the artery 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 medicine for you to use
after a heart attack. Here’s how commonly prescribed medicines can help:
Aspirin and other antiplatelet medicines such as clopidogrel or prasugrel help prevent
blood clots from forming .
Beta-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors lower blood pressure.
Lowering blood pressure decreases the force against which the heart has to work. Beta-blockers
can also control irregular heartbeats, promote stronger pumping of the heart, and
relieve chest pain.
Statins lower blood cholesterol, helping prevent clogged arteries.
Nitroglycerin or nitrates help ease chest pain. These medicines dilate the arteries
to get better blood flow to the heart muscle. This prevents more injury or damage
to the muscle.
Some people decide on their own to stop taking one or more of their medicines a few
weeks or months after they get out of the hospital. This is a dangerous mistake and
can increase the risk of further damage to the heart or even death. Continuing to
take medicines, however, can help you feel better and live longer. Talk with your
healthcare provider if you are confused about your medicines, are concerned about
cost, or have unpleasant side effects from any medicine. Together, you can work to
find a regimen that works for you.
Exercise and lifestyle changes
By making some simple lifestyle changes, you can help improve your heart health and
prevent another heart attack:
Quit smoking. For those who smoke, this is the most important step. It's never easy, but several
things can help: nicotine patches and gum, certain medicines, and group or self-help
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 had a heart attack. You
may be a candidate for a cardiac rehabilitation program. Talk to your healthcare provider
about an exercise plan that's right for you.
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 provider’s 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.
Weight management. If you are overweight or obese, your healthcare provider will work with you to help
you lose weight and lower your BMI (body mass index) to a normal or near-normal level.
Making diet changes and increasing physical activity can help. Losing weight can improve
your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Stress. Learn stress-management techniques to help you deal with stress in your home and
work life. Reducing your stress load will decrease how hard your heart has to work.
With the right treatment and healthy changes in lifestyle, you can reduce your chance
for a second heart attack. You’ll worry less and feel better. Those are benefits worth