Understanding Clot-Dissolving Drugs

One of the most promising new emergency treatments for heart attack is clot-dissolving drugs. When injected immediately following a heart attack, they can help reduce the death rate by 25 percent or more.

Why They Save Lives

Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks the already narrowed coronary artery that feeds blood to the heart muscle. With its blood supply blocked, the heart muscle begins to die. Clot-dissolving drugs quickly dissolve the clot and restore the blood supply to the heart. The sooner the drug is injected, the less permanent damage there is to the heart.

Drug Therapy Choices

Two clot-dissolving drugs are in common use. Which drug you are given following a heart attack depends on your individual history and other factors. If you have already received a clot-dissolving drug for a previous heart attack, your doctor may want to use a different drug to minimize the risk of allergic reaction.

Taking Risks Into Consideration

Clot-dissolving drugs are not without risks. These drugs increase the risk of stroke especially in those with high blood pressure, ulcers, cancer or kidney disease. If you are at risk for a heart attack, discuss your options in advance with your doctor so that in the event of an emergency, there will be no delay in treatment. Some doctors recommend carrying a wallet card with instructions to follow in case of a heart attack, and your doctor’s name and phone number. Inform your family of your doctor’s advice, in case you are unconscious during, a heart attack.

In Case of Emergency

If you experience the chest pressure and pain, don’t wait to find out if it’s a heart attack. Get to a hospital immediately. Clot-dissolving drugs work best when given early.

Take Preventive Measures

The very best way to prepare for a heart attack is to prevent it in the first place. Ask your doctor’s advice on healing your heart with such preventive measures as a low-fat diet, salt restriction, regular exercise and aspirin therapy.

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