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Heart Attack and Occupational Therapy

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a severe medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, resulting in heart muscle damage. A blockage in one or more coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart, is the most common cause of a heart attack.

A heart attack, also known as a myocardial infarction, is a severe medical emergency that occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, causing damage to the heart muscle.

The heart muscle does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients during a heart attack, which can cause the heart to stop working properly. This can result in serious complications like heart failure or arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

How to tell if someone has a heart attack?

If you suspect someone is having a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately. The following are the most common symptoms of a heart attack:

Chest pain or discomfort is commonly described as a pressure, tightness, or squeezing sensation in the chest. The discomfort may also spread to the arms, neck, jaw, or back.

Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath can occur even when the person is not physically active.

Nausea and vomiting: During a heart attack, some people may experience nausea and vomiting.

Sweating: Excessive sweating, particularly when accompanied by chest pain, can indicate a heart attack.

Fatigue: Before or during a heart attack, some people may feel unusually tired or weak.

If you think someone has a heart attack, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. The most common symptoms of a heart attack include the following:

It's important to note that heart attack symptoms differ from person to person, and not everyone will have the same symptoms. Some people may only have minor symptoms, while others may have none at all. If you suspect a heart attack, do not wait for all of the symptoms to manifest. Contact emergency medical services right away. In the event of a heart attack, every minute counts because prompt treatment can reduce the risk of complications and improve the chances of a full recovery.

Each year, over 60,000 Canadians will suffer their first heart attack.

How can you reduce your risk of having a heart attack?

There are several steps that you can take to reduce your risk of having a heart attack:

Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while low in saturated and trans fats can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels, and lower your risk of heart disease. On most days of the week, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Quit smoking: Smoking and tobacco use can harm your heart and blood vessels, increasing your risk of having a heart attack. Quitting smoking is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your heart health.

Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure strains your heart and increases your risk of having a heart attack. Changes in lifestyle, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking, can all help lower blood pressure.

Manage diabetes: If you have diabetes, it is critical to keep your blood sugar levels under control in order to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. This could include taking medications, eating a healthy diet, and exercising on a regular basis.

Maintain a healthy cholesterol level: High cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking are all good ways to lower your cholesterol.

Reduce your stress: Chronic stress can raise your blood pressure and increase your chances of having a heart attack. Stress-relieving activities such as exercise, meditation, or therapy can help reduce your risk.

You can significantly reduce your risk of a heart attack and improve your overall health by making these lifestyle changes. Consult your doctor to determine the best strategies for lowering your risk of a heart attack.

What treatments are there for a heart attack?

Treatment for a heart attack may include:

Medications to dissolve the blood clot: Restoring blood flow to the heart is one of the primary goals of heart attack treatment. This may entail administering medications to dissolve the blood clot that is impeding blood flow. These drugs, known as thrombolytics, can be administered intravenously or through a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) inserted into the artery near the blockage.

Coronary angioplasty: This procedure entails inserting a catheter with a small balloon at the tip into a blocked coronary artery and inflating the balloon to widen the artery and restore blood flow to the heart. To help keep the artery open, a stent (a small mesh tube) may be placed.

Every 22 minutes a Canadian woman dies of a heart attack. Most of those deaths are preventable - CBC News

Coronary artery bypass surgery entails using a blood vessel from another part of the body to create a bypass around the blocked coronary artery (such as the chest or leg). The bypass allows blood to bypass the obstruction and reach the heart muscle.

Other medications: In addition to medications to dissolve the blood clot, people who have had a heart attack may be given aspirin, blood thinners, and cholesterol-lowering drugs to help prevent future heart attacks.

What is the role of occupational therapy in heart recovery?

Occupational therapy is important in heart attack recovery because it helps people regain skills and independence in their daily lives. Heart attacks can impair a person's ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and eating, as well as instrumental ADLs (IADLs) such as financial management and medication administration. Occupational therapists assist heart attack survivors in regaining these skills and adapting to any physical, cognitive, or emotional changes caused by the heart attack.

An occupational therapist may be able to assist a person who has had a heart attack in the following ways:

  1. Assessing physical and cognitive abilities: Following a heart attack, occupational therapists can assess an individual's physical and cognitive abilities to determine what activities they can safely perform and any areas that require improvement.

  2. Creating a treatment plan: Based on the assessment, the occupational therapist can collaborate with the patient to create a treatment plan that addresses any physical or cognitive limitations and assists the patient in reaching their goals.

  3. Teaching energy-saving techniques (see below for more information): Following a heart attack, it is common for people to tire more quickly. To avoid overexertion, occupational therapists can teach patients how to conserve energy and pace themselves during activities.

  4. Providing education on heart-healthy habits: To help prevent future heart attacks, occupational therapists can provide education on heart-healthy habits such as healthy diet, exercise, and stress management.

  5. Assisting with return to work (see below for more information): For patients who are able to return to work, occupational therapists can assist with the transition, including providing accommodations and assisting patients in developing strategies to manage their energy levels while at work.

Overall, occupational therapy can be an important part of the recovery process for people who have had a heart attack, assisting them in regaining their independence and returning to their normal daily activities.

What are some strategies for energy conservation?

Individuals who tire easily after a heart attack or other medical conditions may benefit from energy conservation techniques. Pacing, simplifying tasks, and prioritizing tasks are some energy-saving strategies.

Energy conservation techniques can be helpful for individuals who tire easily after a heart attack or other medical conditions. Some strategies for conserving energy include pacing, simplifying tasks and prioritizing tasks.

Pacing is a strategy for managing your activity levels in order to conserve energy and avoid fatigue. Setting goals for your daily activities and balancing periods of activity with rest are all part of it. Pacing can be implemented in several ways:

  • Set reasonable goals for your daily activities and divide them into smaller, more manageable tasks.

  • Alternate between periods of activity and rest. For instance, you could work for 15-30 minutes before taking a short break to rest or relax.

  • Rather than trying to do too much too soon, gradually increase your activity levels over time.

  • Keep an eye on your energy levels and pay attention to your body. Take a break or reduce your activity level if you are tired or uncomfortable.

Another strategy for conserving energy and avoiding fatigue is to simplify tasks. Simplifying tasks can help make them more manageable and less physically or mentally demanding. Divide tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. For example, instead of cleaning the entire house at once, you could concentrate on cleaning one room at a time. To make tasks easier, use assistive devices or technology. To avoid bending over, use a long-handled dustpan and brush, or write letters on a computer or tablet rather than by hand.

91,524 people in Canada died of heart conditions, stroke or vascular cognitive impairment in 2016. - Heart and Stroke

Prioritizing tasks is a strategy that can help you save energy by allowing you to focus on the most important tasks first, leaving the less important ones for later or delegating them to someone else.

When you prioritize tasks, you can do the following:

  1. Avoid wasting energy on unimportant or unnecessary tasks.

  2. Concentrate on the tasks that are most important to you and have the greatest impact on your life.

  3. Avoid multitasking because it can be mentally and physically exhausting. Instead, concentrate on one task at a time.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can help conserve energy and better manage the effects of a heart attack.

What is a gradual return to work plan, and how do occupational therapists help create one?

A gradual return to work plan outlines the steps that an individual will take to return to work after being absent due to a medical condition, such as a heart attack. Specific recommendations for accommodations, modified duties, and a gradual increase in hours and responsibilities may be included in the plan.

A gradual return to work plan is a plan that outlines the steps that an individual will take to return to work after a period of absence due to a medical condition, such as a heart attack. The plan may include specific recommendations for accommodations, modified duties, and a gradual increase in hours and responsibilities.

Occupational therapists can play an important role in assisting individuals in developing a gradual return to work plan. They can assess a person's physical and cognitive abilities and recommend accommodations and modified duties that will allow the person to return to work safely. They may also work with the individual to develop strategies for dealing with physical and mental fatigue, as well as to educate them on heart-healthy habits in order to help prevent future heart attacks.

Furthermore, occupational therapists can work with the individual's employer and other healthcare professionals to ensure that the individual's return to work plan is realistic and achievable, and that the necessary supports are in place to help the individual succeed.

Overall, a gradual return to work plan can assist individuals in safely and sustainably returning to work while minimizing the risk of further health complications. Working closely with your healthcare team and employer to develop a plan that meets your needs and goals is critical.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a life-saving technique that can assist someone whose heart has stopped beating. If you are trained in CPR and see someone who is unconscious and not breathing, start CPR right away.

Here are the steps to performing CPR:

  1. Request emergency medical assistance. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have access to a phone. If you don't have a phone, ask someone else to call for assistance or go to a nearby phone to request assistance.

  2. Examine for signs of life. "Are you okay?" tap the person on the shoulder. Check for breathing by tilting the person's head back and looking for chest movement if there is no response.

  3. Begin CPR if the person is not breathing. Position yourself so that you are kneeling beside the person and your hands are on his or her chest.

  4. Place the heel of one hand just above the nipple line on the person's breastbone. Place the heel of your other hand on top of the heel of your first.

  5. Keep your fingers interlocked and off the person's chest.

  6. Use your entire body weight (not just your arms) to deliver compressions that are at least 2 inches (5 centimetres) deep and at least 100 compressions per minute.

  7. Open the person's airway after 30 compressions by tilting the head back and lifting the chin with one hand. Pinch the person's nose shut and take two deep breaths into their mouth. Each breath should take approximately one second.

  8. Continue CPR, 30 compressions followed by two breaths, until emergency medical assistance arrives or the person shows signs of life, such as breathing on their own or moving.

It's critical to remember that CPR should only be given to someone who is unconscious and not breathing. Do not attempt CPR if the person is conscious and breathing. Instead, dial 911 for emergency medical assistance and follow any instructions provided by the operator. Even if you are not trained in CPR, it is critical to summon emergency medical assistance as soon as possible. You can help the person by staying with them and providing comfort and support while they wait for the ambulance.


American Red Cross Training Services. (n.d.). CPR Steps | Perform CPR. Red Cross.

Connected by the numbers. (n.d.). Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

Heart Attack Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Recovery | (2022, July 12). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is a Heart Attack? (2022, December 7).


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