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Heart attack - what to ask your doctor

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of your heart is blocked for a period of time and part of the heart muscle is damaged. It is also called a myocardial infarction (MI).

Coronary artery diseaseWatch this video about:Coronary artery disease

Angina is pain or pressure in the chest. It occurs when your heart muscle is not getting enough blood or oxygen. You may feel angina in your neck or jaw. Sometimes you may notice only that you are short of breath. 

Below are some questions you may want to ask your doctor or nurse to help you take care of yourself after a recent heart attack.

Questions

What are the signs and symptoms that I am having angina? Will I always have the same symptoms?

  • What are the activities that can cause me to have angina?
  • How should I treat my chest pain or angina when it happens?
  • When should I call the doctor?
  • When should I call 911?

How much activity is okay for me?

  • Can I walk around the house? Is it okay to go up and down stairs? When can I start light housework or cooking? How much can I lift or carry? How much sleep do I need?
  • Which activities are better to start with? Are there activities that are not safe for me?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise on my own? Should I exercise inside or outside?
  • How long and how hard can I exercise?

Do I need to have a stress test? Do I need to go to a cardiac rehabilitation program?

When can I return to work? Are there limits on what I can do at work?

What should I do if I feel sad or very worried about my heart disease?

How can I change the way I live to make my heart healthier?

  • What is a heart-healthy diet? Is it okay to ever eat something that is not heart healthy? How can I make heart-healthy choices when I go eat out?
  • Is it okay to drink alcohol? How much?
  • Is it okay to be around other people who are smoking?
  • Is my blood pressure normal?
  • What is my cholesterol? Do l need to take medicines for it?

Is it okay to be sexually active? Is it safe to use sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) for erection problems?

What medicines am I taking to treat angina?

  • Do they have any side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Is it ever safe to stop taking any of these medicines on my own?

If I am taking a blood thinner such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), can I used medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) for arthritis, headaches, or other pain problems?

Alternate Names

What to ask your doctor about your heart attack

Update Date: 1/11/2013

Updated by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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