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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit and Physician Chu I Ta on June 6, 2022

Expert Tips To Help You Recover From Myocardial Infarction

If you've recently suffered from a myocardial infarction (or a heart attack), then it's time to heal your body. In this article, our experts weigh in on how to do that.

Myocardial infarction min scaled

An acute myocardial infarction is also known as a heart attack. It occurs when there is a blockage in one or more of your arteries.

When you experience a heart attack, time is of the essence. Seeking immediate medical treatment can be the difference between life and death.

After you’ve experienced a myocardial infarction, it’s important to take steps to recover so it doesn’t happen again. In this article, our experts show you how.

What Causes A Myocardial Infarction?

A myocardial infarction occurs when there is either a partial or complete blockage in one of the coronary arteries.

A coronary artery is one of the main arteries in the heart that is affected by hypertension and cholesterol leading to myocardial infarctions.

An increase in a person’s risk of the condition can be attributed to lifestyle factors. This includes factors that are out of their hands.

As a result, they may develop one of three types of myocardial infarction. These are:

  • STEMI (ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction): This is considered a classic heart attack that occurs when a major artery is blocked completely, resulting in serious heart damage.
  • NSTEMI (Non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction): It occurs when there is a full blockage in a minor coronary artery or a partial blockage of a major coronary artery. Symptoms can be the same as STEMI, but the damage to the heart is far less severe
  • Coronary spasm: A coronary spasm refers to the temporary constriction of the arteries that send blood to your heart. This can decrease blood flow or block it entirely from your heart.

Age and sex

Older men and women are at an increased risk of myocardial infarction. Regular check-ups with your doctor can help.

A man’s susceptibility to the condition becomes greater after age 45. Whereas women are more vulnerable after menopause or age 50.

However, it’s usually due to genetics and lifestyle habits that eventually catch up to you as you age. This may include a lack of physical activity, a diet high in sodium, sugar, and fat, smoking or tobacco use (including smokeless or chewing tobacco and vaping), drinking too much alcohol, and drug abuse (especially in younger individuals)

Separately, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that it is related to the decrease of Kidney Qi (vital life force) associated with aging.

“Kidney Yang (active energy) Deficiency may fail to invigorate Yang and Qi in the five Zang organs and lead to a Deficiency of Heart Yang and Qi. A Kidney Yin (passive energy) Deficiency may fail to nourish the Yin of the five Zang organs and lead to a Deficiency of Liver Yin and Internal Consumption of Heart Yin. This, in turn, results in Blood Stasis, Qi Stagnation, Phlegm, and Cold Retention. Eventually, it’ll obstruct the flow of chest Yang and Qi, and contract the heart’s vessels,” explains Real Health Medical Chief Physician Chu I Ta.

High blood pressure

In TCM, hypertension is associated with several negative emotions.

“Overthinking and worry can damage the Spleen, generate Phlegm-Dampness, and stagnate Qi in the organ system. Depressed anger can damage the Liver and impair the organ’s ability to regulate Qi flow. It’ll lead to Liver Qi Stagnation, transform into Fire, and produce Phlegm,” says Physician Chu.

The combination of Qi Stagnation and Phlegm will restrict blood circulation. This will aggravate a contraction or an obstruction of the heart’s vessels.

High cholesterol levels

High cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol is a type of blood fat that’s needed to perform different functions to keep a person’s body healthy.

However, excess cholesterol can clog and stiffen arterial walls. This makes it difficult for blood to flow through and puts a strain on the heart.

In addition, the formation of clots on the fatty, hardened parts of the arteries can halt blood flow completely. It can also provoke a myocardial infarction or stroke when it breaks away and becomes lodged in an artery or vein.

TCM recognizes that the overconsumption of fatty, greasy, or sugary foods can disrupt the Spleen and Stomach’s ability to transport nutrients. It’ll induce internal Phlegm turbidity, which will obstruct Qi flow and give rise to a contraction or an obstruction of the Heart’s vessels. 

Underlying medical conditions

Acute myocardial infarction can also happen without arterial blockage but accounts for only a smaller percentage of all attacks. It can arise from health issues, such as: 

  • Electrolyte imbalance 
  • Artery spasms 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Diseases that narrow blood vessels 
  • Physical trauma that tears or ruptures coronary arteries 
  • Blood clot or embolism that gets trapped in a coronary artery 

An attack of pathogenic Yin Cold and Congenital and Chest Yang Deficiency may also prompt Cold Retention and Qi Stagnation. Consequently, there’ll be clogging of Qi flow and Chest Yang, as well as contractions of the Heart’s vessels. 

How To Recover From A Myocardial Infarction

Treatment for myocardial infarction involves restoring blood flow to the affected area of the heart as soon as possible. It can be achieved through numerous methods that are used in tandem, including:

  • Supplementary oxygen  
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention 
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting 
  • Anti-arrhythmia, anti-clotting, thrombolytic, and pain relief medications 

Once a person completes their treatment regimen, it’ll take a few weeks before they can resume a normal way of life. Thus, the post-treatment goal will be to keep the heart healthy, reduce the risk of related medical conditions, and prevent further damage to the organ. 

Undergo a cardiac rehab program

Set in a supervised setting, this program enables a person to: 

  • Recover completely from myocardial infarction 
  • Gain in-depth knowledge about their condition 
  • Learn strategies that help them avoid their disease becoming more severe 

People who start and complete as many sessions of the program within five years have shown a remarkable 30% drop in their risk of another attack or death.

It’s also necessary for a person to schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider four to six weeks after leaving the hospital. Undergoing diagnostic tests at regular intervals is also key to ascertaining the presence of blockages in the coronary arteries. 

TCM Remedies For Myocardial Infarction

Here are some TCM remedies you can use to help recover from myocardial infarction:

Use herbal remedies

Eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising should be included in your recovery plan. Always be sure to clear any exercise plan with your doctor first.

Herbal decoctions or formulas can be proposed by a TCM physician to address symptoms of the condition during the acute phase and the root cause in the remission phase.

On the other hand, treatment will focus on tackling both aspects in people with a mix of deficiencies or excess syndrome.

Research shows that red yeast rice is an effective remedy for reducing high cholesterol, which is a risk factor for heart attacks.

Heart and Kidney Yin Deficiencies

This deficiency syndrome presents with symptoms like palpitations, night sweats, chest pain, and weakness in the lumbar area and knee joints.

It’s advisable to consume a formula called Zuo Gui Yin to nourish Kidney Yin, improve Heart health and calm the mind.

People with Phlegm and excessive fluid retention that manifests as a greasy tongue coating and a deep, taut pulse should refrain from using the formula.

Heart and Kidney Yang Deficiencies

Stuffy chest, spontaneous sweating, and a deep, thready pulse are notable symptoms of this syndrome.

The consumption of a formula called You Gui Yin can help resolve the syndrome by replenishing Qi, warming Yang, circulating Blood, and clearing the collaterals.

People with Phlegm retention and Dampness should avoid this formula as it consists purely of herbal tonics.

Qi and Yin Deficiencies

This syndrome can be identified through symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, and a red tongue with a scanty coating.

Consuming Sheng Mai San and Ren Shen Yang Rong Tang formulas can treat the syndrome by circulating Blood, nourishing Yin, replenishing Qi, and clearing the collaterals. 

Heart-Blood obstruction

The existence of a dark purple tongue and stabbing pain in a single, fixed position can indicate this syndrome.

The consumption of Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang helps do away with these symptoms. It can circulate Blood, resolve Stasis, clear the meridians and ease pain.

Though, pregnant women or people without Blood Stasis should steer clear of this formula.

Internal obstruction of Phlegm-Turbid 

Usually, people with this syndrome can experience oppressive pain, a stuffy chest, slippery pulse, and greasy tongue coating.

As such, the focus of treatment with a herbal formula known as Kuo Lou Xie Bai Ban Xia Tang will be to clear Yang, remove turbidity and resolve Phlegm.

It’s also suitable for a person to use this formula with Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang if they’ve been diagnosed with both Phlegm-Turbidity and Blood Stasis. 

Yin Cold Retention

Having chest pain that radiates to the back and becomes worse with Cold is a discernible sign of Yin Cold retention. Likewise, cold limbs, a pale complexion, and a deep, thready pulse are common symptoms of this syndrome.

A formula called Kuo Lou Xie Bai Bai Jiu Tang is effective for warming and clearing yang, unblocking obstruction, and dissipating Cold.

Meanwhile, adding ingredients like cinnamon (Gui Zhi), red sage root (Dan Shen) and immature bitter oranges (Zhi Shi) to the formula are appropriate for people with a Yang Deficiency body constitution.

Try acupressure

Pressing and kneading multiple acupoints daily can soothe chest pain and avert the condition. The acupoints that you can consider are: 

  • Dan Zhong (CV17) 
  • Bai Hui (GV20) 
  • Ji Quan (HT1) 
  • Shen Men (HT7) 
  • Tai Chong (LR3) 
  • Nei Guan (PC6) 

The road to a normal way of life after acute myocardial infarction treatment can be arduous. Take comfort in knowing that proper guidance and traditional remedies can help lift you physically and mentally.

Do speak to a clinical doctor and TCM physician beforehand about the safety of adopting both systems of medicine during recovery. Also, speak to TCM and clinical doctor (cardiologist) before beginning any kind of rehabilitation or exercise program.

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