- A Visual Guide to Heart Disease
- Medical Illustrations of the Heart Image Collection
- Take the Heart Disease Quiz!
- Patient Comments: Heart Attack - Symptoms
- Patient Comments: Heart Attack - Treatment
- Patient Comments: Heart Attack Treatment - Angiography or Angioplasty
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
- What is a heart attack?
- How is a heart attack treated?
- Antiplatelet agents
- Glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors
- Clot-dissolving drugs
- Coronary angiography and percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA)
- Coronary artery stents
- Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Beta blockers
- Coronary artery bypass
- What can a patient expect during recovery from a heart attack?
- How can a second heart attack be prevented?
Quick GuideHeart Disease: Causes of a Heart Attack
Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, another class of blood vessel dilators, often are given orally after a large heart attack to improve the healing of heart muscle. Examples of ACE inhibitors include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Zestril and Prinivil), and ramipril (Altace). These medications lower the blood pressure and reduce the workload of the heart, thereby helping the damaged heart muscle to recover. They are especially helpful in patients who have recovered from heart attacks but have high blood pressure, heart failure, major damage to the left ventricle, and diabetes mellitus. For additional information, please see the ACE Inhibitors article.
Beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), and atenolol (Tenormin) usually are given early during a heart attack and are continued long-term. Beta blockers antagonize the action of adrenaline and relieve stress on the muscles of the heart. Beta blockers decrease the workload of the heart by slowing the heart rate and decreasing the force of contraction of heart muscle. Decreasing the workload decreases the demand for oxygen by the heart and limits the amount of damage to the heart muscle. Long-term administration of beta blockers following a heart attack has been shown to improve survival and reduce the risk of future heart attacks. Beta blockers also improve survival among patients with heart attacks by decreasing the incidence of life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, for example, ventricular fibrillation. Beta blockers can be given intravenously in the hospital and then can be taken orally for long-term treatment.
The side effects of beta blockers are wheezing (worsening of breathing in patients with asthma), abnormally slow heart rate, and exacerbation of heart failure (especially in patients with significant damage to their heart muscle); however, in patients with chronic heart failure, beta blockers have recently been demonstrated to be helpful in decreasing symptoms and prolonging life. For more, please read the Beta Blockers article.