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BHF - What happens after a heart attack?

BHF'sr senior cardiac nurse, Doireann Maddock, talks through what sort of treatment, care and support is available after a heart attack.

Having a heart attack is a scary experience but thankfully more and more people now survive them thanks to advances in the way we diagnose and treat heart problems.

If like Audrey you experience symptoms of a heart attack, call 999 immediately.  It’s the best way to help save your life, or the life of someone you love.

Paramedics will take you to hospital in an ambulance and it’s common for them to give you aspirin and oxygen and carry out an ECG which will show them if you are having a heart attack.


The vast majority of heart attack patients are now taken straight to specialist centres where they are given primary angioplasty. This involves inserting a catheter (usually at your groin) through your blood vessels to the blocked artery in your heart.  A tiny balloon is then inflated to squash back the fatty tissue causing the blockage and a stent – a tiny metal tubular cage – is inserted to help keep the artery open.

As time is of the essence, if you live in a rural area far from a hospital that does primary angioplasty you may find you are given clot-busting drugs in the ambulance instead. Our research continues to help drive improvements to treatments like these, to help you survive your heart attack.


After treatment it’s common to recover in a cardiac or coronary care ward where you can be monitored closely.

We have more than 650 BHF healthcare professionals, including specialist heart nurses, who help heart patients recover

Usually you’re fit and healthy enough to go home after a few days and you’re given some of our booklets to help you understand your condition and any on-going care or medication you may need.

Several weeks later you should take part in a cardiac rehabilitation, a programme of exercise and information sessions to help you get back to life as quickly as possible.  It’s proven to reduce your chance of dying from heart disease and can improve your quality of life, which is why we continue to campaign for all eligible heart patients to have access to this excellent service.

Ongoing support

And our support doesn’t end here. If you have a heart condition why not become a member of our Heart Matters service and get a fantastic bi-monthly magazine as well as a welcome pack, access to a free online lifestyle check and email support for any queries you may have.

Or check out our online community where you can chat with lots of other heart patients who’ve shared similar experiences to you, or join your local Heart Support Group to meet up with people face to face.

If you fancy a challenge, why not help us continue our life-saving work by taking part in one of our events, or by volunteering for us.

Heart disease is still the UK’s single biggest killer, so our work is far from over. But with your help we can make a difference.

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