For patients / Heart Attack

What should you know?

Recognize early signs of a heart attack

The occurrence of a heart attack does not always manifest itself in the same fashion, as shown on television or in the movies, when an individual suddenly collapses following a strong chest pain. Heart attacks can occur suddenly, but also progressively.

In Quebec, near 5, 000 individuals die every year following a heart attack. Take the time to recognize these symptoms, this could save a life.


Heart Attack Symptoms

Discomfort or uneasiness in the chest
Sudden or intermittent discomfort in the chest that can last several minutes, stop and come back later.

The feeling of discomfort can be like a pressure, a pinch, burning or squeezing sensation in the chest. 
Discomfort in other parts of the body
The same discomfort feeling (with or without uneasiness in the chest) can also be felt in the:
  • neck
  • jaw
  • shoulder
  • arms
  • back
Short breath
A breathing difficulty can accompany or precede uneasiness in the chest.
Other symptoms
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain


What to do?

Call 9-1-1



You can benefit from a quick and efficient intervention by the paramedical team.

  1. Immediate treatment can be given to you by the ambulance service before your arrival to the hospital.

  2. Patients arriving by ambulance are generally treated more rapidly upon their arrivals at the hospital than patients who present to the hospital by themselves.


Timing is essential

Even when you are uncertain about whether your symptoms are related to your heart, do not hesitate to seek medical assistance. Heart attack is very serious and potentially lethal; it requires quick medical intervention. Do not wait more than 5 minutes to call 9-1-1.


Be vigilant

  • Inform your circle (friends, family members or colleagues) of the risks and early signs of a heart attack.

  • Discuss with your doctor your risk factors and the ways to reduce them.
    Ask your doctor about when to use aspirin and nitroglycerin.


Life after a heart attack

Is recovery possible after a heart attack?

It can take several weeks before the heart recuperates and regains its normal working capability. The damaged tissues will become scar tissue (non-functional tissue). Individuals who have had a heart attack are encouraged to stay active. However, the patients should modify their lifestyles. Discuss with your doctor; he will help you to select the appropriate medications and the necessary changes to your lifestyle.

How cardiac rehabilitation can be beneficial?

The program generally includes a multidisciplinary team (physician, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, nurse, nutritionist, psychologist, etc.) to help patients to improve their medical conditions and regain their qualities of life after a heart attack.


Cardiac rehabilitation usually includes:

  • An exercise program

  • Education and advice

  • Psychological support

  • Possibility to meet other patients with previous heart attacks.


What happens to the daily activities, leisure and rest time?

It is important to take time to rest. Sleep is important for the good recovery of the body. Taking a 15-minute afternoon nap can be beneficial.

Although rest is necessary, take time to participate in daily social activities and continue to engage in physical activities. It is recommended to stay active, to seek help from your circles of family or friends and not to isolate yourself.


When can I go back to work?

This depends on your condition. Generally, convalescence requires 2 to 3 weeks. Your doctor would be able to evaluate this timeline and determine whether you can continue to work at the same pace as before your heart attack.


Is it normal to feel depressed?

Following a heart attack, individuals can feel an array of emotions. Depression, anxiety or anger are all normal feelings after a heart attack. For example, each pain felt can cause fear of another attack. A patient should not hesitate to see his doctor if depression persists and interferes with sleep, appetite or self-esteem.


What to do if you feel chest pain again after a heart attack?

Do not hesitate to consult your doctor. This situation does not occur with every patient. Your doctor will be able to investigate further the cause of this pain.


Why lifestyle changes are important following a heart attack?

Changing lifestyle can help prevent recurrence and future complications of a heart attack.

Quit smoking. Be more active and adopt a healthy diet. You will feel in a better shape and will enjoy a feeling of well-being.


Will my sexual life be affected following a heart attack?

You should be able to undertake similar sexual activities as before your heart attack. However, you should consult your doctor, if you feel chest pain before or after sexual intercourse.