The main trigger for a heart attack is arteriosclerosis, which is a narrowing and hardening of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients. Causes of arteriosclerosis in turn are smoking, stress, diabetes, high blood pressure, a high cholesterol level, and obesity – but also genetic predisposition.
There are certain risks for cardiovascular diseases that you cannot influence. These include age, gender, hereditary disposition or an unnoticed heart defect. However, most risk factors can be minimised or improved by adopting a health-conscious behaviour.
What do doctors recommend in order to identify risks and for prevention?
Blood pressure: Control measurement every three to five years for all men and women, beginning at age 18. Annually, in case of personal risk factors, such as severe obesity.
Cholesterol: Control measurements every five years for men between the ages of 35 and 65, for women between the ages of 45 and 65. For high-risk patients (e.g. cardiovascular diseases in the family), at least every five years beginning at age 20, or as recommended by the doctor.
Blood glucose: Every three years for men and women over the age of 45; for high-risk patients (e.g. diabetes in the family, high blood pressure, severe overweight), as recommended by the doctor.
High blood pressure and cholesterol or blood sugar levels that are too high need to be treated. Consistent medication therapy in the event of these three risk factors is central to reducing the risk of heart attack.
Quit smoking, reduce excess weight, create a balance between private and professional life with sufficient rest and exercise, eat healthily. Take these issues to heart. If necessary, have a specialist support you.
The coronary arteries, which wrap around the heart, supply it with oxygen and nutrients. During a heart attack, the blood supply to the heart is suddenly interrupted by a blockage in the coronary arteries. The heart muscle cells are then no longer sufficiently supplied with oxygen and nutrients. If the lack of oxygen lasts too long, the affected part of the heart muscle can die off.
These are the most common symptoms of a heart attack – alone or in combination: constricting, burning chest pain which lasts more than 10 minutes; pains that sometimes radiate towards the upper abdomen, shoulders, arms and lower jaw; weakness, nausea and shortness of breath.
With the right reaction, you can help save a life:
Immediately dial the emergency number 144 and follow the instructions.
Place the person down with his/her upper body raised on a bed, sofa or on the floor. Open up any tight clothing.
If the person is unresponsive and does not show signs of breathing, he/she may have suffered cardiac arrest due to a heart attack. Start immediately with the cardiac massage and continue until the ambulance arrives. Automated external defibrillators (AED for short) are increasingly used in highly frequented public places. Even laymen can operate them, already before the arrival of the professional rescue services.
In the event of a heart attack, immediate care in a general hospital with appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic intensive care measures is advisable.
An acute heart attack can be detected by electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests. Coronary angiography, which allows the coronary arteries to be depicted, is used to provide the diagnosis.
In the event of a heart attack, the occluded artery must be reopened as soon as possible in order to restore the circulation in the heart muscle. This is a vital emergency. In addition to medication that dissolves the blood clot, immediate coronary angioplasty is necessary. In this procedure, a balloon catheter is used to widen the occluded artery, which is then stabilised with a stent.
Individual health situation
The social service of the hospital organises inpatient or, if your state of health allows it, outpatient cardiac rehabilitation after your hospital discharge. Outpatient rehabilitations are as effective as inpatient rehabilitation.
With outpatient cardiac rehabilitation, you live at home. For six to twelve weeks, you go to a hospital or a larger medical centre several times a week for rehabilitative measures. Inpatient rehabilitation in a specialised clinic usually lasts three weeks. With both rehabilitation possibilities, specialists will help you develop an appropriate exercise program, adopt a healthy diet, find the right dosage for your medication, and recognize the warning signals sent by your body and better understand your illness.
You will probably have to take medication for the rest of your life in order to strengthen your heart and to reduce the risk of another heart attack or secondary diseases. Therefore, pay attention to the explanations of your cardiologist or family doctor.
Enter your vital signs (e.g. blood pressure) and medication (e.g. blood thinning tablets) diligently into your medication passport.
Exercise: Start as early as possible with moderate physical activity, according to the medical assessment.
Living with a chronic illness requires very good self-management in order to be able to successfully master the various challenges in everyday life. concordiaCoach can support you in doing so.
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