What's It Like: To have a heart attack

Jaclyn Cosgrove: What leads up to a heart attack is nothing that happens over night. It's a buildup over time, and a lot of times it can be prevented.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 19, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: January 19, 2014

Once you're at the hospital, a doctor might perform a coronary angioplasty procedure.

The most common cause of a heart attack is when the plaque in a person's arteries ruptures, and a blood clot forms on its surface.

A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries.

Angioplasty, a procedure used to open narrow or blocked arteries, can restore blood flow to the heart.

During a heart attack, time is muscle. The longer you go without blood flow, the higher risk you have that your heart muscle can become dead and scarred. It's important to take chest pain and other symptoms seriously.

What's the recovery time?

You will likely stay in the hospital a minimum of two days. The time you spend in the hospital will vary, though, depending on your health and how intense your heart attack was. It will also depend on how much the heart attack damaged your heart.

After you're released, you will want to rest for at least a week. It's important to ask any questions you have for your doctor and follow his or her orders. This will better ensure a successful recovery.

You might be prescribed cardiac rehabilitation, which could include aerobic exercises. This will vary from doctor to doctor and also among hospitals.

Sources: Dr. Reji Pappy, an interventional cardiology at St. Anthony Hospital; National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and the American Heart Association.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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