Heart Attack

Heart Attack: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to heart attack.

Q: I’ve heard I should eat more fish and try to cook with vegetable oils like canola. Why?

A: Cold-water varieties of fish, such as salmon, herring, and tuna – as well as certain vegetable oils like canola oil and soybean oil – are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids known as omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help to reduce the risk of a subsequent heart attack by preventing blood from clotting and sticking to the artery walls. For maximum benefits, fish should be eaten two or three times a week.

Q: I’m worried I may still need bypass surgery. Is it still as risky as it used to be? How long will I be unable to work?

A: Coronary artery bypass is now done more routinely than in the past. Also, recovery times for bypass surgery have significantly shortened over the years. All bypass patients need to spend a few days in intensive care, but they usually are discharged to the home after about seven days if complication-free. Most people can return to work within several weeks. Of course, every form of surgery has risks. The risks of heart surgery and whether you are a candidate are best explained by a cardiothoracic or heart surgeon.

Q: As well as being a heart attack survivor, I have high blood pressure. Does this mean I will now have to take twice as many heart pills?

A: Many individuals receive a beta blocker after having a heart attack to prevent future heart attacks. If you can tolerate a beta blocker, one may be prescribed for you. Beta blockers are also used to treat hypertension. Therefore, your doctor may consider replacing your current antihypertensive medication with a beta blocker. Alternatively, an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor is another drug used to treat hypertension that also improves outcomes in heart attack survivors. Your doctor may decide that an ACE inhibitor is right for you. Many of these medications also come in once-daily formulas, reducing the number of pills you need to take each day.

Q: If I miss a dose of medication, should I double up the next time I’m due to take it?

A: No. Missing a single dose now and then will probably not have any serious consequences. On the other hand, doubling up on the dose can lead to adverse effects, including too low a blood pressure or heart rate. If you miss more than a single dose, you should consult your doctor.

Q: If I think I’m having a heart attack, should I wait and see?

A: Often, it is not easy to tell. But don’t wait more than a few minutes – five minutes at the most. Symptoms include

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, which may be felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath, which often occurs with or before chest discomfort
  • Other symptoms such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness

Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. Call right away!

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