There are a number of treatment options. Treatments work best when they are given right after symptoms occur—within the first 1-2 hours. Early treatment to open up the blockage can help prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle.
In the acute scenario, when medical personnel think a heart attack is likely, you may be started on:
- Oxygen therapy
- Aspirin and other antiplatelet agents to thin your blood and prevent further clotting
- Nitroglycerin to help improve blood flow through the heart's arteries
- Pain relief medications like morphine to address any chest pain
- Anticoagulants to prevent further clotting
- Beta-blockers to reduce workload on heart by decreasing the heart rate and blood pressure
Once doctors can confirm you are having an acute heart attack, treatments might include:
- Coronary angioplasty or percutaneous coronary intervention to open blocked arteries. In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube is threaded through a blood vessel, usually in the upper thigh, to the blocked artery. A stent is placed
to open up the artery and restore blood flow. This is the best treatment of heart attacks and has the best outcomes when done within two hours.
- Clot-busting medications are usually given within hours of a heart attack to dissolve any blood clots blocking the artery. This is usually given in situations when angioplasty is unable to be performed because there are delays getting
the patient to a facility with a catheterization lab.
- Medications including beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, statins, aspirin and other antiplatelet agents may be prescribed. Always take your medications as directed and discuss with your doctor any issues you may have with the medications.
- Procedures including heart bypass or an implantable device to even out your heart's rhythm.
- Cardiac rehabilitation, a medically supervised program to help people recover from heart attack and live a heart healthier life.
- Lifestyle changes, for example following a better diet, getting routine exercise, quitting smoking and keeping up with medical appointments and advice are very important steps you can take to improve your health.