Heart attack – quick answers

It’s a good idea to find out more about your heart condition and your risks and treatment. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed with information, or just need a quick reminder, start here – and follow the links to find out more!

Question: I’m afraid of having another heart attack. Can I reduce my risk? 

Answer:  There are two main types of action you should take. First, you need to take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor. But you also need to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk. If you smoke, you need to stop. If you drink alcohol, you shouldn’t exceed 14 units a week for men or women. Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet and do regular exercise under the guidance of your doctor or cardiac rehabilitation team. Aim for around 30 minutes activity, five times a week. Start with 10 minutes and build up gradually. If you’re overweight, getting down to a healthy weight will also help reduce your risk.

Question: What happens when rehabilitation ends?

Answer:  Leaving cardiac rehabilitation can be daunting, so it’s important to work out beforehand how and where you’re going to get the ongoing support you need. See the British Heart Foundation website for a support group in your area. If you still smoke, ask your GP, pharmacist or cardiac rehabilitation team about stop smoking clinics or visit www.smokefree.nhs.uk to find one. If you’re struggling with depression, ask your doctor to refer you for counselling. Your GP’s surgery is there to help you. If you have any questions about your medications, you want to check your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, or you’d like to find out about smoking cessation or weight loss support, talk to your GP or practice nurse.

Question: How do I know if I need to dial 999?

Answer: If you think you may be having a heart attack, pay close attention to the symptoms you’re having. Do you feel any pain, pressure, heaviness or tightness in one or more of the following: your chest, neck, jaw, arm, back or shoulders? Do you feel nauseous? Are you having a cold sweat, or feeling dizzy or short of breath? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, sit down and tell someone how you feel. If your symptoms are concerning, get worse, or have not improved after 10 minutes, call an ambulance. Just because you had one set of symptoms with your first heart attack, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the same set of symptoms another time, so don’t take any risks. 

Question: What should I do if I’m having side effects from my medication?

Answer: If you think you might be experiencing side effects from your medicines, contact your GP, cardiac rehabilitation team and/or cardiologist as soon as possible. Don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first.

Question: What should I do if I miss a dose of my medication?

Answer: If you miss a dose of your medicines, take your next dose as normal and inform your health care provider. Make sure you don’t take a double dose, as this could cause other problems.