Heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A heart attack is serious. When the movement of oxygen-filled blood to the heart hits a roadblock, that part of the heart’s muscle can begin to die. This is a heart attack. Fortunately, not all heart attacks are deadly. If you are stricken by a heart attack, there is treatment. However, treatment will be most effective if it can be administered as soon as heart attack symptoms present. As soon as you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 911.
Treatments at onset. When a heart attack first hits, certain treatments can be given even before your doctor confirms a heart attack diagnosis. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) list four early treatments. These include oxygen therapy, aspirin as a blood thinner and blood clot prevention, nitroglycerin to improve blood flow and a medication such as morphine to reduce chest pain. In an emergency room, you probably will be placed on a heart monitor so the attending physicians can keep track of your heartbeats.
Clot busters. Clot busting medicines or thrombolytic medicines do what their name suggests: They bust blood clots. The NHLBI states that thrombolytic medicines can dissolve the blood clots that block the coronary arteries. However, this type of heart attack treatment “must be given within several hours of the start of heart attack symptoms.” If you can get this treatment as earlier as possible, you can increase your chance for survival.
Beta blockers. According to the Mayo Clinic, beta blockers are a medicine that can help relax heart muscle while slowing your heartbeat and decreasing blood pressure. This combination of effects helps your heart to function easier, reducing the amount of damage done by a heart attack. The beta blockers may even help to prevent another heart attack in the future.
Angioplasty. An angioplasty sounds scary, but it is a common, nonsurgical procedure. It also is called PCI, or percutaneous coronary intervention. An angioplasty can open blocked arteries. During an angioplasty, your doctor will insert a balloon through a blood vessel to reach the blockage. This balloon then is inflated to push the blockage out of the way, allowing the blood to flow through the artery again. Sometimes a stent, which can help prevent a future blockage, is put into place during an angioplasty.
Bypass surgery. Depending on the severity of the heart attack, a coronary artery bypass grafting may be performed. This type of surgery removes a healthy artery or vein from one part of your body and then grafts it to the blocked artery, providing a bypass or new route for blood to flow to the heart.
It is important to remember that any treatments given for a heart attack are going to depend on the patient and the severity of the attack.