When a coronary artery is blocked completely and suddenly, causing the area of the heart muscle normally supplied by that artery to be starved of blood and oxygen, this area of heart muscle can be damaged. This event is called a heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction (MI). A heart attack can feel just like angina: the symptoms can be quite mild or intense and severe. If you are having a heart attack, you might feel tightness, heaviness or pain in your chest, which may spread to your arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach. Some people who are having a heart attack feel short of breath, start to sweat, feel lightheaded or dizzy. Some people feel sick, vomit or have persistent indigestion. The symptoms felt during a heart attack do not go away fully with GTN. The longer the artery is blocked before getting to hospital for treatment, the more likely that heart damage will occur. Therefore, if you are having a heart attack it is crucial to phone an ambulance and get to hospital as quickly as possible
There are some common myths and misconceptions about heart attacks (see table 1.2), so learning about these myths will help you understand heart attacks further.
Your lifestyle plays a big part in treating CHD and protecting your heart. This aspect of treatment is discussed in detail in the chapters to follow. This section describes medication and possible surgical interventions that can be used to treat CHD.
Medication for Angina or After a Heart Attack
After a heart event, medication plays a big part in your living a long and healthy life. Medications are used to protect your heart, improve your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Despite the fact that medications are effective, people often do not like taking them and do not take them consistently. To increase chances of taking your medications consistently, you must really understand what they do. After having angina or a heart attack you will most likely be on 4 or 5 medications for life. Some of these prescribed medications start off at a low dose and are then increased gradually over the next few months. People often think that increasing the dosage is a bad sign, but it is routine. People are often concerned about side effects of tablets. Sometimes these concerns are from a previous experience or they result from something a friend or neighbour has said or from an article that might tell only one side of the story. If you have concerns, discuss them with your doctor, practice nurse or cardiac rehabilitation professional. Don’t let your worries become exaggerated and get the best of you.
Medications prescribed by your doctor or cardiologist have many positive effects, such as the following:
- They help your heart heal after a heart attack; therefore they help you to have a healthy and active future.
- They reduce the likelihood of a heart attack in the future.
- They thin your blood and reduce the likelihood of blood clots.
- They lower blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol.
- They reduce your chance of having angina.
- They protect your stent whilst it’s healing into place.
- They allow you to exercise more, which helps your heart get stronger and helps you get fitter.
- They reduce the likelihood of CHD plaques bursting. In other words, they stabilise CHD plaques.
- They reduce inflammation in coronary arteries.
- They reduce the problems that can occur if you have an irregular heartbeat.