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Heart Attack (cont.)

Heart Attack Treatment

If the EKG shows that there is an acute heart attack (myocardial infarction), the goal is to open the blocked artery as soon as possible and restore blood supply to the heart muscle.

When a heart attack strikes, the key thing to remember is that time equals muscle. The longer the delay in seeking medical care, the more heart muscle will be damaged. There is a window of opportunity to restore blood supply to the heart muscle by unblocking the affected heart artery. Treatments must be done in a hospital and include administration of clot-busting drugs to dissolve the clot at the site of the ruptured plaque and heart catheterization and angioplasty (in which the blood vessel is opened by balloon, often with adjunctive placement of a stent), or both.

Not all hospitals have the equipment or cardiologists available to perform emergency heart catheterizations, and thrombolytic therapy (the use of clot-busting drugs) may be the first step to open the blood vessel and return blood supply to the heart muscle.

Heart Attack Self-Care at Home

  • The first step to take when chest pain occurs is to call 911 and activate the Emergency Medical System. First responders, EMTs, and paramedics can begin treating a heart attack en-route to the hospital, alert the Emergency Department that the patient is on the way, and treat some of the complications of a heart attack should they occur.
  • Step two is to take an aspirin. Aspirin makes platelets less sticky and can minimize blood clot formation and prevent further blockage of the artery.
  • Step three is to rest. When the body does work, the heart has to pump blood to supply oxygen to the muscles and clear the waste products of metabolism. When heart function is limited because it doesn't have an adequate blood supply itself, asking it to do more work may cause more damage and risk further complications.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/30/2016

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