Understanding a heart attack
What just happened?
If you or someone you love just had heart attack, you’ve just been through a very difficult experience. Take some time to reflect and appreciate that you or your loved one made it through.
Recovering from a heart attack can be overwhelming as you try to understand what happened and what’s next. You are dealing with new emotions: fear, anxiety, anger, and a sense of powerlessness.
It’s important to remember you are not alone. In the United States, more than 805,000 people just like you have a heart attack every year.
Thousands of people are on the same journey as you.
How can I lower bad cholesterol?
The best way to manage your cholesterol is to know your numbers and track them over time.
Bad cholesterol can be lowered by lifestyle changes, but diet and exercise alone can only lower it 14%–20% at most. That is why it is important to talk to your doctor about available treatment options that can help you reduce your high bad cholesterol and risk for a future heart attack.
The most commonly prescribed treatment option is a statin; however, it is important to know that there continue to be advancements in cholesterol management and more treatment options are now available to help you better reduce your bad cholesterol even further.
What may have happened in the hospital during my heart attack?
In the hospital, the doctors likely performed one of these procedures to treat your heart attack.
- They performed a stenting procedure where a “stent,” a tiny metal mesh tube, is put in to hold a blocked artery open to make sure blood can flow through.
- They performed open heart surgery or “bypass surgery” to create a new physical path for blood to flow around the blocked artery. To do this, they use tissue from an artery or vein in another part of your body and put it in your heart. If there are multiple blocked arteries, you might need more than one bypass.
What type of medications may my doctor have prescribed after my heart attack?
Procedures are not a permanent fix. The risk of another heart attack still remains.
Your doctor probably prescribed you some new medications. Each medication has a specific purpose to help you in your recovery, so it’s very important to take them as prescribed. Some of these medications can reduce your risk of having another heart attack.
Here are the most common types of medications:
Medicines to prevent blood clots
- After your heart attack, the stent or bypass procedure that you received increases your chances of having a blood clot—which could lead to a stroke.
- Blood clots are clumps of blood cells, known as platelets.
- Anti-platelets help keep your blood cells from sticking together.
- Examples of anti-platelets include Plavix® (clopidogrel), Effient® (prasugrel), Brilinta® (ticagrelor), and Aspirin.
Medicines to lower blood pressure
- After a heart attack, it’s important to protect your blood vessels.
- High blood pressure (or hypertension) can damage the walls of your blood vessels and lead to serious health problems. Anti-hypertensive medications work to keep your blood vessels relaxed and open.
- There are many medications that can lower blood pressure in different ways: diuretics, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and more!
Medicines to lower bad cholesterol
- Bad cholesterol that has built up overtime likely played a role in your heart attack by clogging at least one of the arteries in your heart.
- Statins help to lower your levels of bad cholesterol and reduce the risk of another heart attack. They work by slowing the production of cholesterol in your liver.
- Examples of statins are Lipitor® (atorvastatin), Pravachol® (pravastatin), Crestor® (rosuvastatin), and Zocor® (simvastatin).
- There are some prescription medications that can be used in addition to statins to lower bad cholesterol and also reduce your risk of another heart attack.