Step 1: Expect immediate interventions, and anxiety
Various doctors will likely administer medication and monitoring devices once you get to hospital. While in hospital, allow the doctors to take proper care of you. This is a particularly difficult time - you will likely be anxious, in pain and typically confused. Most of the time, a blood thinner and blood pressure medications (possibly even narcotics to control the pain) will be administered immediately to restore proper blood flow. You may then be taken to the catheterization lab for an investigation of your coronary arteries. The hospital should also offer a life-saving angiogram - if they don't offer that service, you should be stabilized and transferred to another facility immediately. You may need immediate stent placement or coronary artery bypass.
Step 2: Read your discharge summary carefully
Before checking out of the hospital, review your discharge summary in detail with your nurse and doctor. Here are some follow up questions that you should ask:
• When am I due back to the hospital or to my own cardiologist for a follow-up visit?
• What medication do I need to take now and how long will I be on them? What side effects should I expect?
• If I've had a stent or bypass, is there any follow-up care needed for procedure itself?
• Are there any symptoms I should look out for that could warrant further emergency care?
Step 3: Mull over more treatment
Discuss the possibility of cardiac rehab with a hospital social worker or patient coordinator, this can help boost your health during a very critical time in recovery. If in the past you've had a heart attack, or a heart procedure (like stenting, angioplasty, coronary artery bypass, or valve replacement) you are eligible for rehab. Hospital staff can also direct you to local programs in hospitals and outpatient facilities, while also helping you organize insurance coverage.
Step 4: Get a cardiologist
If you don't have a cardiologist already, speak to staff or someone who can coordinate follow-up care with a cardiologist. Muscle damage from the heart attack may also require a long-term medication that enhances heart function, manages blood pressure and eases heart strain. A cardiologist will be necessary to manage these medicines for the long-term.
Step 5: Delve into diet and exercise
More often than not, patients receive few details on what to eat and how to exercise. You can turn to a cardiac rehab program, which will offer you advice, though a nutritionist or a weight loss program can also help you out. Some lifestyle changes include no smoking, cholesterol control, regular exercise, and control of sugar levels.
Step 6: Ask about resuming normal activities (or not)
Ask your doctor whether you can return to your usual schedule, seeing if you can do things like go to work, travel or have sex. If you need bed rest, look into obtaining short-term disability allowance or a caregiver for assistance.
Step 7: Don't neglect your mental health
While hospitals provide great post-attack physical care, they typically won't address psychological effects of a heart attack. Request a psychology consult while you're in the hospital or to seek therapy post-discharge. Depression is common after a heart attack and there is no shame in seeking a counselor to speak about your fears or anxiety.