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Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction)

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction) - Preparing for surgery

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction) - Post-surgery care

Heart Attack (Myocardial Infarction) - Other Information

What to do in a heart attack

As a heart attack is serious and can be fatal, immediate medical attention should be sought when one experiences any sort of chest pain or discomfort which is not relieved by rest or medication.

One should follow the following steps when encountering a heart attack episode: 

  1. Recognise the warning signs of a heart attack.
  2. Call 995 for an ambulance.
  3. Do inform someone of the situation and have someone keep watch on the patient.
  4. Get the patient to stop all activity, sit or lie down, and wait for transport to the nearest hospital. The patient should not drive to the hospital.

Preparing for the coronary angioplasty procedure

  • Inform your doctor of any drug allergies, especially allergies to seafood, pain relief medications, chest X-rays, iodine and contrast mediums.
  • Inform your doctor of your medical history and the medications you are currently taking.

What to do after a heart attack

The doctor may recommend a cardiac rehabilitation programme, diet modification and medication to help the patient gradually resume a normal lifestyle and reduce the risk of another heart attack.

1) Cardiac Rehabilitation

Physiotherapist cardiac rehab
This is a structured programme aimed at helping heart attack patients gradually improve their cardiovascular fitness, and enhance their psychological well-being, thus enabling them to resume a normal lifestyle. It also aims to modify their risk factors and reduce the risk of another heart attack.

A team of healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists, dieticians and pharmacists will work closely with the patient on their road to recovery. 

This programme begins in the hospital from the time of diagnosis and continues after discharge from the hospital. The ultimate goal is for the patient to do the following things independently. This programme has various components including:

  • Exercise training: A customised exercise programme to safely improve cardiovascular fitness.

  • Health education: To provide the patient and family members with information on heart attack, its signs and symptoms and its risk factors.

  • Risk factor and behaviour modification: Practical steps in risk factor and behaviour modification will be taught. People who smoke are strongly encouraged to stop and are given advice on how to do so. Stress management is also important.

  • Dietary modification: The patient will be advised to adopt a healthy diet. For instance, food high in cholesterol and saturated fats such as animal fats, whole milk products, eggs, red meats (beef, lamb), coconut oil and palm oil are to be avoided. Healthy food alternatives will be introduced, e.g. low-fat milk or lean meats. Healthy food preparation alternatives will also be introduced to the patient or family members. For example, the use of canola or olive oil and boiling or steaming food instead of frying.

2) Medicines

Medicine will be prescribed to a heart attack patient to:

  • Reduce the risk of a second heart attack
  • Relieve chest pain.
  • Control risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

The patient should follow the medication regimen as prescribed even if they feel well. They should tell their doctor if they have any side effects from the medication or if they find it difficult to take their medication regularly.

When can a heart attack patient return to normal activities

Every patient is different and should consult their doctor on when to resume various activities. Here are some general advice which applies to patients with uncomplicated heart attacks.

  • Work
    This depends on the nature of a patient’s work. If the work is not physically demanding, the patient can resume work in a few weeks. For a physically demanding or stressful job, the patient may need up to three months away from work. The patient should consult his/her cardiologist regarding his/her suitability for resuming work.

  • Driving
    The patient should consult with his/her cardiologist regarding his/her suitability for driving, especially if one drives commercial vehicles.

    Many patients will be able to drive within three to five weeks after the heart attack if they recover well with no complications. However it is best for someone to accompany the patient initially.

  • Sports
    After a heart attack, patients are advised to have adequate rest. The road to recovery of cardiovascular fitness is gradual. The intensity of exercise should be gradually increased.

    The patient may start exercise walking on flat ground in the third week after the heart attack, and may start climbing or do gentle uphill walking from the fourth week. Normal brisk walking can usually resume in about three months.

    If a patient experiences chest pain, discomfort or shortness of breath while walking, they should slow down and stop. Report the symptoms to the doctor. The patient should consult his/her cardiologist regarding the specific time frame for resuming normal sporting activities.


Heart Attack: A Patient's Guide to Coping After Discharge



When A Heart Attack Happens



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