Are you caring for someone who has had a heart attack?

Are you caring for someone who has had a heart attack?

Here are some heart attack questions and answers that you, as a caregiver, may find helpful!

A heart attack may be caused by either atherosclerosis or a coronary artery spasm.

What is a heart attack?

There are specific blood vessels that deliver oxygen to the heart. These are called coronary arteries. Think of these blood vessels as a highway where the red blood cells travelling through the vessels are the cars. The oxygen we need travels inside the cars and is delivered to the heart.

A heart attack may be caused by either atherosclerosis or a coronary artery spasm.

Atherosclerosis

When plaque begins to buildup inside a blood vessel, the passage through the vessel narrows. This is called atherosclerosis. Think of this as a lane closure on the highway. When there are lane closures on the highway, fewer cars can pass through a particular area. This results in less oxygen being delivered to the heart.

Even worse, the highway may need to be closed due to a more severe blockage. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada reports that “More than 9 out of 10 heart attacks are caused by atherosclerosis.”

Coronary Artery Spasm

Heart attacks may also occur due to a spasm of one of these blood vessels. Think of a vessel spasm as a temporary traffic jam. There may not be a particular reason for the traffic but while the cars are stopped – there is no oxygen being delivered to the heart.

When the heart is not receiving oxygen, either due to atherosclerosis or a coronary artery spasm, it is called a heart attack. This can be fatal for a person who does not receive immediate medical attention.

For more information on the causes of a heart attack including the signs and symptoms and how to react please visit The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada’s website.

What are some medical procedures associated with a heart attack?

Two medical procedures that may be associated with a heart attack are coronary artery bypass surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention which may be referred to as “stent placement.”

Coronary artery bypass surgery

This is when another blood vessel is used in order to “bypass” the damaged blood vessel so that oxygen can still be delivered to the heart. Think of this as a detour or alternate route around an area of the highway that is closed.

Percutaneous coronary intervention

A stent is inserted to open the blood vessel that is partially blocked by plaque so that blood flow through the vessel can be restored, and oxygen can be delivered to the heart. Think of the stent as the road crews that work to re-open the closed lanes on the highway. Ideally, this procedure is done to prevent a heart attack from occurring.

What can I do to help the person in my care?

It is important that the person in your care follows the prescribed heart attack recovery plan including the lifestyle modifications that have been encouraged by the health care professional.

These lifestyle modifications are meant to decrease the risk of another heart attack (or stroke) and may include increasing physical activity, consuming more nutritious foods that are low in sodium (salt), saturated fats and trans-fats, quitting smoking, and managing both blood pressure and stress. Visit The Heart and Stoke Foundation of Canada’s Get Healthy page for more information.

*Please note that the person in your care should consult a health care professional before engaging in physical activity.

Perhaps, as their caregiver, you can also integrate some of these modifications into your own lifestyle. See our Elizz article Tips to reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The person in your care should take all medications as prescribed. You can also remind them to take their medications on time.

It is also important to maintain follow up appointments so that any necessary adjustments to the plan of care can be made. You can assist the person you are caring for by accompanying them to these appointments.

Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.

Are you caring for someone who has suffered from heart disease or stroke?

An Elizz health care professional can help.

Throughout the month of February, Elizz is offering a special Heart & Stroke package for family caregivers including a combination of In-Home Care and Virtual Services. Visit our website or call 1-855-ASK-ELIZ (275-3549) to learn how you can save over $130 on Elizz services.

At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.

You might also like our Elizz article entitled Caregiver Guide to Stroke Signs and Symptoms.

 

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