Myocardial infarction known loosely as heart attack is a condition where blood supply is cut off to portion of heart, leading to immediate death of affected tissue.
This causes severe excruciating pain, breathlessness and sweating and can be fatal if not treated immediately.
It is not only during the heart attack but also after recovery that the patient needs much medical and psychosocial assistance and care.
After a myocardial infarction, the patient and his family suffers greatly for anxiety concerning his survival, physical, financial and sexual life.
First and foremost, the patient should be informed about the nature of his affliction. His family should also be involved in it, to boost their confidence.
The doctor should talk positively and encouragingly to him, instead of frightening him. For example, in case of simple infarction with no complications, he can be told that he was lucky to have a small heart attack, which will recover completely.
If complications have developed he has to be reassured that these complications are completely treatable and shall reverse with time. Such counselling will definitely make him relax which is important to prevent further recurrence of cardiac ischemia.
Sedatives and tranquilizers are used for first few days during the heart attack, but long term use is not advisable, as these drugs are habit forming. Anti-depressant drugs should also not be used for a long time, as they tend to cause irregularities in heart beat.
It is important for the patient to adhere to prescribed medication and the schedule of follow up in the hospital. Risk factors causing the heart attack like hypertension or diabetes have to be identified and controlled.
The patient has to give up smoking and drinking alcohol as these are also high risk substances to cause heart attacks and aggravate the problem.
Regarding diet, it is important to see that the affected individual takes small frequent meals. A heavy meal will impose a burden on the already sick heart and should be avoided. Diet should contain little or no fat as it is a risk factor for heart problems.
There should be more of green vegetables, fresh fruits, fish, cereals and whole grain. These would supply much needed nutrition for the wear and tear which has occurred in the cardiac muscle.
An individual has to avoid being constipated after a heart attack because constipation would lead to straining while passing stool which is not desirable. Diet rich in vegetables and fruits will also help in preventing constipation.
Drinking plenty of water is very beneficial for the affected person. It will prevent constipation, urinary tract infections and minimize risk of formation of urinary stones, the conditions to which a hospitalized bed ridden person is prone to.
As such, in case of a simple heart attack without complications, an individual is made ambulatory after 2 days, but movements are restricted. Physical exercise can be resumed about 2 weeks after recovery from a heart attack.
Brisk walking, light jogging, yoga, swimming are some of the useful exercises he can do. The amount of exercise done should be increased gradually on a daily or weekly basis. But he/she should exercise only to the limit of endurance. Moment one feels breathless or experiences chest pain, the exercise should be stopped immediately.
Following heart attack, one can restart sexual activity after about 2 weeks of returning home. In fact sexual intercourse proves to be relaxing for majority of the individuals particularly men. In case of women it allays any fear or anxiety.
Sex helps in restoring the confidence of the person that all is well now. Heart attack can lead to sexual impotence is a myth and the person should be counseled about it.
Few individuals may have to change their jobs after a heart attack, more so if the job is very demanding or physically strenuous. But majority can carry on with their work as before after recovery. This has to be explained to the patient to remove his financial worries.
With good team work of counselors, doctors, nurses and family members, a person can lead a good quality of life following a heart attack.