A major heart attack can happen in one of three places in the heart. “You have the right coronary artery, which goes down the right side of the heart to the bottom of the heart. You have the LAD or the left anterior descending artery, which comes down to the front part of the heart, and then you have the left circumflex artery which basically wraps around the lateral side of the heart,” said Dr. Joann Journigan, a cardiologist with Lee Health.
If a patient has a heart attack, doctors say it’s important to focus on two things: recovery and preventing another heart attack. “Number one, know your doctor's treatment plan and take all medications as prescribed. Number two, you want to basically know the warning signs of a heart attack,” explained Dr. Journigan.
After suffering a heart attack, patients are at a higher risk of having another heart attack. Signs can include pain in the chest, back, jaw, neck, arm, shortness of breath and cold sweats. “Research has shown that participating in a cardiac rehab program and completing as many sessions as possible reduces your risk of another heart attack by as much as 30 percent over the next five years,” she said.
But after the recovery period, doctors say it’s critical for patients to focus on modifying their lifestyle. “If you smoke, definitely stop smoking. That’s one of the most important preventable risk factors for heart disease. Change your diet. You definitely want to adhere to a heart-healthy diet. Increasing fruits and vegetables, reducing red meat and sodium in your diet and limiting unhealthy fats,” said Dr. Journigan.
Studies show one-third of the U.S. population is considered obese. That extra weight can put extra stress on the heart. “You want to limit stress. Twenty-five percent of patients basically show anger, fear, and stress after a heart attack. There are ways to reduce that through a relaxation technique such as yoga or meditation,” said Dr. Journigan.
Following your treatment plan, taking prescribed medications, and improving your lifestyle can help strengthen your heart and lower your risk for another heart attack.