Restoring blood flow to the heart within one hour of the onset of a heart attack can prevent or limit damage to the heart muscle and can also decrease the chance of a repeat heart attack. To restore blood flow to the heart muscle, physicians typically use a minimally invasive procedure such as:
- Angioplasty and Stenting - During this non-surgical procedure, a balloon attached to a small catheter is inflated within an artery to flatten the plaque against the artery wall, increasing the artery's diameter. In most cases, a stent, a metal-mesh tube, is expanded and left inside the artery to support the expansion and maintain blood flow.
- Thrombolytic Therapy uses specialized medications to dissolve blood clots
Once emergency treatment for MI has been administered and tests have confirmed that a heart attack has occurred, the next goals of treatment become addressing risk factors, preventing further damage to the heart muscle, and minimizing the risk of a repeat MI.
Medications prescribed to people who have had a heart attack include:
- Aspirin or other antiplatelet medicines are among the most widely used drugs in the world. They work by reducing the formation of blood clots and can help prevent obstruction of the coronary arteries.
- Beta-blockers lower blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the workload on the heart.
- Cholesterol-modifying medications or lipid therapy helps lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or the “bad”) cholesterol.
In many cases, additional angioplasty and stenting or bypass surgery (blocked artery is replaced with a healthy blood vessel harvested from the person) may be recommended after a heart attack.
There are some beneficial lifestyle changes people can take to minimize their risk of having an acute MI. These changes include:
- Quitting smoking,
- Controlling high blood pressure,
- Lowering cholesterol,
- Losing weight, and
- Controlling diabetes.