The heart is a very powerful muscle pump that beats about 80,000 times a day, pumping 10,000 litres of blood throughout the body. The coronary arteries and heart valves play an important role in this process. The coronary arteries supply the heart with oxygen and nutrients, whereas the heart valves operate within the heart as outlets that regulate the inflow and outflow of blood.
Over the years, the functionality of the coronary arteries and heart valves can become reduced due to illness. Often, arteriosclerosis is the cause. This narrowing and hardening of the coronary arteries is caused by plaques, which are deposits of blood lipids, blood clots, connective tissue and lime on the inner walls of the vessels. These deposits cause micro-inflammation with scarring, hardening and local functional limitations of the corresponding organs.
The risk of suffering from arteriosclerosis depends on the age, sex, genetic predisposition and other factors.
If you minimise your risk factors, you can slow down the progression of this disease:
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.
Consistent medication therapy in the event of these three risk factors is central to reducing the risk of chronic heart failure.
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.
Depending on the extent to which the functionality of the coronary vessels or heart valves have been reduced, the restrictions may go unnoticed, trigger only mild discomfort, or have a significant impact on physical capacity. The most common symptoms are shortness of breath and a decrease in physical stamina. However, such symptoms can also have other causes – therefore, it is important to carefully find the cause and reach a diagnosis in order to determine the right treatment.
For minor symptoms, treatment is often unnecessary. During regular check-ups, your doctor will control if the functionality of the coronary arteries or heart valves is changing or if symptoms are appearing.
Conservative (non-surgical) treatment measures consist of medication therapies: for example, anti-hypertensive and diuretic medication in the event of heart failure, or anticoagulants to prevent blood clots. Your cardiologist will determine the appropriate medication therapy.
It is important, and part of the therapy, to adapt your lifestyle: Stop smoking, drink alcohol in moderation, adopt a healthy diet, reduce excess weight, conduct suitable endurance and muscle training, alone or in a group, and get enough rest.
In case of an acute deterioration in health, contact your doctor.
Sometimes, medication and lifestyle adjustments are not enough as a therapy – in particular, with an advanced disease. At this point, surgery can be a solution.
In the event of a narrowing of the coronary arteries (stenosis), these surgical therapies consist in expanding the corresponding vascular sections with a cardiac catheter and placing stents, or bypassing the blocked arteries. Heart valves can be replaced by implants.
Do you need surgery?
CONCORDIA has commissioned the institute B,B,S. Economic Consultants in Basel to evaluate the diagnostic-therapeutic and surgical interventions on coronary arteries and heart valves in all Swiss acute care hospitals – independently, neutrally, and according to statistical quality criteria.
The quality of inpatient treatment was assessed, along with the length of stay and the hospital costs.
During a personal conversation, we will show you, on the basis of the results, which hospitals throughout Switzerland have excelled over the years the interventions for coronary arteries and heart valves in terms of quality and efficiency.
Use our consulting offer to find out which hospital is most suitable for your treatment.
Naturally, you still have the choice of when and where you would like to be treated, in line with your basic and supplementary insurances.
After an operation on the coronary arteries or heart valves, your doctor will discuss with you the possibility of cardiac rehabilitation. Medical institutions throughout Switzerland offer such rehabilitation on both an outpatient and inpatient basis.
Rehabilitation aims at rebuilding physical performance. Unhealthy behaviours should be recognised and changed over the long term. It is also important to prevent or reduce the negative psychosocial effects of the disease.
The social service of the hospital organises inpatient or, if your state of health allows it, outpatient cardiac rehabilitation after hospital discharge. Outpatient rehabilitations are just as effective as inpatient rehabilitation. Apply for the reimbursement of the cost of rehabilitation through your doctor already before you are admitted into the hospital – this way, you can avoid waiting times in the hospital.
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, 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 progression of the underlying disease. Therefore, pay attention to the explanations of your cardiologist.
Enter your vital signs (e.g. blood pressure) and medication (e.g. blood thinning tablets) diligently into your medication passport.
Living with a chronic illness requires very good self-management in order to be able to successfully master the various challenges in everyday life. Our Chronic Care Coaching can support you in doing so.
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