Cypress Heart & Vascular Center

There are many types of heart attacks. The traditional heart attack (also known as myocardial infarction) happens when blood flow to a part of the heart becomes blocked. Heart attacks can also be caused by stress on the heart leading to an oxygen supply demand mismatch in which the arteries are open but the demands of the heart are in excess due to an elevated blood pressure, low blood pressure, infection, low red blood cell count, low oxygen state due to a lung problem… Rarely heart attacks are caused by heart procedures or surgeries. For the traditional heart attack, a patient is hospitalized, placed on blood thinner medications, blood pressure lowering medication(s), cholesterol medication(s), and undergoes a heart catheterization procedure to find the narrow/blocked artery in order to open it with a balloon and stent(s) or to plan coronary bypass surgery.

What are signs of heart attack?

Heart attacks are different for everyone and not all patients experience the same symptoms. Symptoms can vary among men and women. Symptoms can include chest pain, shortness of breath, arm pain, neck pain, jaw pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, excess sweating, loss of consciousness or sudden death. 

What is the recovery time after a heart attack?

Recovery after a heart attack can range from two weeks to six months on most occasions. It depends on the severity of the heart attack and on the complications that the heart develops as a result of the heart attack. Such complications include weakening and/or stiffening of the heart leading to fluid buildup in the lungs or body (known as congestive heart failure), heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias), valve abnormalities (leakiness), or irritation of the sac of the heart (pericarditis). If a heart attack is left untreated, patients are at risk for another heart attack in addition to the complications listed above.

What to do after a heart attack?

Most importantly, patients need to take medications prescribed by the cardiologist as their life depends on it. This is especially true for the blood thinners that are necessary if a stent has been placed. In the first two weeks, it is important to maintain no more than a moderate level of exercise (ex. walking at a pace where you are able to maintain a conversation on the phone without getting shortness of breath). This allows the heart to recover from the recent injury and also allows for the artery puncture site your interventional cardiologist had used to perform your heart catheterization procedure to heal. After the two weeks, it is also important for heart attack survivors to get more physical activity than they did before. A large part of the heart attack recovery is to make lifestyle changes and ideally enroll in a rehabilitation program dedicated for patients who had a heart attack (cardiac rehabilitation).

What are lifestyle changes to make after a heart attack?

Making lifestyle changes is the key to preventing another heart attack, complications of a heart attack, stroke, and/or death. It is crucial to categorically avoid tobacco products, recreational drug use and sedentary lifestyle. It is important to maintain compliance with medications prescribed by your cardiologist. Control of blood pressure, blood glucose (for diabetics) and cholesterol levels should be optimized. For patients who are overweight, they should enroll in a weight loss programs. Cardiac Mediterranean diet, aerobic exercise, and enrolling in cardiac rehabilitation is strongly encouraged.

What are heart attack rehabilitation programs?

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are medically supervised rehabilitation programs to help improve your overall health. These treatments may include education on lifestyle changes, counseling, and exercise training. Exercise training will be accompanied with an attached electrocardiogram (ECG) which allows the providers to be aware of the impact of exercise on the heart. Updates on patients’ physical performance and ECGs are also shared with the referring cardiologist.

Prevention is key!

At Cypress Heart and Vascular Center, our providers strive for patient satisfaction and education on all cardiovascular conditions. Do not wait for heart disease to develop before you make the decision optimize your cardiovascular health. We can perform screening tests to calculate your 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease and provide you with a plan to minimize the risk.

Azfar Bilal Sheikh, MD