After immediate treatment for a heart attack has restored blood flow through the coronary arteries, a number of treatments may be used to help the patient recover and to prevent future heart attacks.
Providers may prescribe one or more of the following medications:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers -- These medications lower blood pressure and reduce strain on the heart. They also help slow down further weakening of the heart muscle.
- Anticlotting medications -- Anticlotting medications prevent platelets from clumping together and forming unwanted blood clots. Aspirin and clopidogrel are examples of anticlotting medications.
- Anticoagulants -- Anticoagulants are also called blood thinners. They prevent blood clots from forming in the arteries and keep existing clots from growing larger.
- Beta blockers -- Beta blockers decrease the heart's workload. In addition to preventing another heart attack, they may be used to relieve chest pain and discomfort and to treat arrhythmias.
- Statin medications -- Statins control or lower blood cholesterol. Lowering blood cholesterol decreases the risk of having another heart attack or stroke.
- Nitrates -- These medications are vasodilators. They widen the coronary arteries to increase blood flow to the heart muscle. They also widen the body's veins, which lightens the heart's workload by temporarily decreasing the volume of blood returning to the heart.
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
During coronary artery bypass grafting, a healthy artery or vein is removed and then connected, or grafted, to bypass the blocked section of the coronary artery. This provides a new route for blood to flow to the heart muscle.
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes are an important step in preventing another heart attack. These lifestyle changes can include:
- Heart-healthy eating
- Aiming for healthy weight
- Managing stress
- Physical activity
- Quitting smoking
Cardiac rehabilitation, or cardiac rehab, is a medically supervised program that may help improve the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. The cardiac rehab team may include doctors, nurses, exercise specialists, physical and occupational therapists, dietitians or nutritionists, and psychologists or other mental health specialists.
The first part of rehab consists of education, counseling, and training. This part helps the patient understand their heart condition and find ways to reduce the risk for future heart problems. The rehab team will help the patient learn how to cope with the stress of adjusting to a new lifestyle and how to deal with fears about the future.
The second part of rehab involves exercise training. This part helps the patient learn how to exercise safely, strengthen muscles, and improve stamina. An exercise plan will be developed based on personal abilities, needs, and interests.