Your treatment plan
Whether you’ve had a heart attack or an episode of unstable angina, it’s normal to feel worried and upset in the first few days after your diagnosis.
Now your doctors know you have heart disease, you’ll be receiving treatment to reduce your risk of another heart attack.
The first 28 days after your heart attack
1. In hospital1
You will undergo several tests so the cardiologist can see what condition your heart is in and decide on the best treatment for you. These tests may include:
- electrocardiogram (ECG),
- blood tests
- echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart)
- angiogram, which is like an X-ray of your coronary arteries.
They will then decide whether to treat you with tablets or – if a clot is blocking one of your coronary arteries – with a procedure called angioplasty as well as medicines.
For coronary angioplasty, after a local anesthetic, doctors will insert a catheter (a thin flexible tube) with a small balloon at its tip into an artery in your groin or wrist. Once the catheter reaches the blockage, the balloon is inflated and a stent – a small mesh tube – will be left in place to hold open your narrowed artery and allow the blood to flow more easily. Some people may require bypass surgery, either in the initial hospital stay after a heart attack or planned for some point in the months following.
Whether you’ve been in hospital for two days or two weeks, going home might feel daunting. You’ll be given a copy of your ‘discharge summary’, which explains the treatment you’ve received and medicines you’re taking. Your GP will be sent a copy, but it’s a good idea to let the surgery know as soon as you’re out of hospital in case the letter takes a while to arrive.
It’s likely that you’ll be on a lot of medicines, some for the rest of your life. Even if you feel quite well, it’s vital that you take them all as they’ll prevent your condition getting worse and reduce your risk of another heart attack.
Depending on where you live, a cardiac liaison nurse may be in touch after you leave hospital, to answer any questions you may have.
What happens next?
Your cardiologist may ask to see you in clinic in the months after you leave hospital, to check how you’re doing. You may have another ECG, plus an echocardiogram – a painless ultrasound similar to those used during pregnancy, which creates a detailed picture of your heart to show how well it’s recovering.
If you’ve had no complications, you will probably be invited to attend a Cardiac Rehab programme. These are designed to offer you exercise and nutritional advice, and help you to make the lifestyle changes that will lower your risk of future heart problems. They will also support you with any questions that you may have about your medication. The programme usually involves one or two hour sessions, once or twice a week.
It’s important to attend Cardiac Rehab. It can help if your partner or family comes along, too – making lifestyle changes is often easier if you do them together.
When you leave hospital, some of the your medications may still require increasing to a full dose. This is called ‘up-titration’ and is completely normal. You should see your GP soon after you are discharged and discuss with them who will manage this and review your discharge letter / plan with them.
Living with heart disease…
As you come to the end of cardiac rehab you’ll be given a long-term management plan to help you continue with your new, healthier lifestyle.
By now, it’s likely you’ll be well on the road to feeling well again. Many people find that when they change their lifestyle they even feel better than before.
FIND OUT MORE:
As soon as you’re well enough, it’s important to start making small lifestyle changes to help your recovery. Find out more.
1https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/diagnosis/, Accessed September 2018
2https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/recovery/, Accessed September 2018
3https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heart-attack/recovery/, Accessed September 2018