Treating A Heart Attack

If the electrocardiogram (EKG) shows that you are having a heart attack, a variety of medications can be used to assist the heart. Listed below is a brief description of some of the more common medications used to treat a person who is experiencing a heart attack.


Nitroglycerin works by dilating the vessels that supply blood to the heart. This medication, often administered sublingually (under the tongue), works quickly to reduce or relieve chest pain associated with a heart attack. Nitroglycerin can also be administered intravenously and absorbed to a level where chest pain is eliminated.

Persons who use nitroglycerin tablets at home are usually instructed to take a tablet as soon as they experience chest pain. The pills can be repeated at five-minute intervals for a total of 3 tablets. If chest pain is still present following three doses of nitroglycerin, the person is usually advised to go to the nearest hospital.

Thrombolytic agents

These are the newest prescription drugs available to treat a heart attack. Thrombolytics or “clot busters” as they are frequently called are given intravenously in an attempt to dissolve the blood clot that is causing the heart attack.


If you are experiencing chest pain that could signify the onset of a heart attack, most physicians agree that you should take an aspirin before coming to the hospital. If you are not having a heart attack the aspirin will not harm you and if you are having a heart attack the aspirin will “thin” your blood and possibly prevent further clot formation. Another medication, called heparin, is often administered intravenously for a few days after a heart attack has occurred. Heparin also “thins” your blood and reduces the risk of further clot formation. “Thining” your blood actually refers to reducing it’s tendency to clot

Beta-blockers and Calcium channel blockers

These medications are often given in an effort to reduce the heart’s requirements for oxygen after a heart attack. They can be administered either by mouth or intravenously. Many patients continue these medications following discharge from the hospital.

Anti-arrhythmic agents

Since the heart muscle is irritable for a period of time following a heart attack, drugs to prevent dangerous heart rhythms that can ultimately result in death are sometimes administered.