Heart attack - what to ask your doctor

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A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a part of your heart is blocked for a period of time and a part of the heart muscle is damaged. It is also called a myocardial infarction (MI).

Coronary artery disease

Watch this video about:
Coronary artery disease

Angina is pain or pressure in the chest. It occurs when your heart muscle is not getting enough blood or oxygen. You may feel angina in your neck or jaw. Sometimes you may notice that you are short of breath.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of yourself after a heart attack.

Alternate Names

What to ask your doctor about your heart attack


What are the signs and symptoms that I am having angina? Will I always have the same symptoms?

  • What are the activities that can cause me to have angina?
  • How should I treat my chest pain or angina when it happens?
  • When should I call the doctor?
  • When should I call 911?

How much activity is ok for me?

  • Can I walk around the house? Is it ok to go up and down stairs? When can I start light housework or cooking? How much can I lift or carry? How much sleep do I need?
  • Which activities are better to start with? Are there activities that are not safe for me?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise on my own? Should I exercise inside or outside?
  • How long and how hard can I exercise?

Do I need to have a stress test? Do I need to go to a cardiac rehabilitation program?

When can I return to work? Are there limits on what I can do at work?

What should I do if I feel sad or very worried about my heart disease?

How can I change the way I live to make my heart healthier?

  • What is a heart-healthy diet? Is it ok to ever eat something that is not heart healthy? How can I make heart-healthy choices when I go eat out?
  • Is it ok to drink alcohol? How much?
  • Is it ok to be around other people who are smoking?
  • Is my blood pressure normal?
  • What is my cholesterol? Do l need to take medicines for it?

Is it ok to be sexually active? Is it safe to use sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) for erection problems?

What medicines am I taking to treat angina?

  • Do they have any side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Is it ever safe to stop taking any of these medicines on my own?

If I am taking a blood thinner such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), can I use medicines such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) for arthritis, headaches, or other pain problems?


Gaziano M, Ridker PM, Libby P. Primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P. (eds.). Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:1010.

Smith Jr SC, Benjamin EJ, Bonow RO, et al. AHA/ACCF secondary prevention and risk reduction therapy for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2011 update: a guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation endorsed by the World Heart Federation and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;58(23):2432-46. PMID: 22055990 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22055990.

Review Date: 1/9/2015
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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