Important Questions and Answers About Cardiac Care

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

Sometimes people don't realize they're having a heart attack. Common symptoms are a dull ache in the chest, discomfort in the throat, indigestion, or discomfort in the chest that radiates down the arm or up in the shoulder. Diabetics may not have pain. If you suspect a heart attack, don't wait. See your doctor or the Chest Pain Center at Southeast Missouri Hospital immediately.

How much activity is safe for heart patients?

As a general rule, climbing stairs several times a day is fine. At Southeast's Cardiac Rehab, new patients are encouraged to walk 5 minutes, four times a day. As they increase the time, they should decrease the frequency. They can build up to 30 minutes, once a day for six weeks. When exercising, use the "Talk Test." If they are able to talk with ease while walking, they're doing OK. If not, slow down. It may be a sign the patient is exerting too much effort.

After my heart attack, I feel fine. Why do I have to take it easy?

It takes some time for the heart muscle to heal after surgery. Compare it to a broken arm it initially hurts, but you keep the cast on until it heals. The heart needs time to get its strength back.

I feel fine after my heart surgery. Why can't I drive or work for six weeks?

It's recommended a patient not drive for six weeks. That's because the bone is one of the slowest healing tissues in the body. As to returning to work, ask your physician. Even though you may feel fine after heart surgery, your body needs time to heal.

Is it OK to consume alcohol after a heart attack?

It is not a good idea to mix medications with alcohol. Alcohol also makes the heart more sluggish.

Why do I need Cardiac Rehab when I can just walk outside?

Walking benefits certain parts of the body. When patients do Cardiac Rehab, they can exercise on different equipment to target the workout. Patients can also be closely monitored as they exercise, and they can interact with other patients as they exercise. There are also educational classes and a staff of a dietician, counselor, nurse and exercise physiologist.

How many bypasses can be done on the heart?

Up to eight bypasses can be performed on the heart, although four to five are more common. If there is only one major blockage, the physician may choose to do a stent procedure.

What are the keys to keeping your heart healthy?

Eat a low fat diet, maintain an ideal body weight, control your blood pressure and exercise. Also remember it's important not to smoke. The number one risk factor of younger people with heart disease is smoking. It clots the blood, decreases the good cholesterol and causes the blood vessels to constrict.

What if I have chest pain?

If you're having pain, you can take up to three doses of nitroglycerin. Wait five minutes between each dose. If the pain persists, report immediately to Chest Pain Center.

If you have a question for the Experts at the Southeast Missouri Hospital's Regional Heart Center, please e-mail them using the form below.

Your Name:

Email Address: