HOW DOES A HEART ATTACK HAPPEN?
A heart attack is a life-threatening condition for which you must seek medical treatment immediately. It is caused by a sudden complete blockage of one of the three coronary arteries. The heart muscle is no longer supplied with oxygen and nutrients, which means heart failure can occur. Therefore, do not hesitate and call the emergency ambulance service immediately on 112.
WHAT SYMPTOMS INDICATE A HEART ATTACK?
You should consider an acute heart attack if you notice the following signs:
- Tightness and marked pressure over the chest
- Sudden onset of severe pain behind the breastbone and on the left side of the chest, which can also radiate to other parts of the body, e.g. the back, the upper abdomen or the jaw
- Sweating and/or nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
Fear of death, marked agitation
HOW IS A HEART ATTACK DIAGNOSED?
The cardiology department offers all modern invasive and non-invasive diagnostic procedures. These include:
- History-taking, physical examination
- ECG (electrocardiogram): this provides indications of damage to the heart or old heart attacks
- Laboratory tests
- Echocardiography (ultrasound): shows parts of the heart muscle that no longer move/contract properly due to a lack of blood supply
- Cardiac catheter examination (coronary angiography): with the help of a contrast medium, it is possible to assess which coronary vessels are constricted and to what extent. The affected coronary vessel can be treated during the examination, e.g. with an expansion balloon and stent
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to check blood flow to the heart muscle
HOW IS A HEART ATTACK TREATED?
In the event of an acute heart attack, there is a danger to life. Therefore, immediate hospital admission and intensive medical care are essential. The faster therapy is initiated, the more heart muscle tissue can be saved.
For acute therapy, coronary angiography (a special form of X-ray examination in which the coronary vessels are imaged) is performed immediately in our cardiac catheterisation laboratory. In this procedure, a very thin and flexible wire is pushed through the artery to the diseased area using a catheter. The narrowed coronary vessel is dilated with a balloon and, if necessary, a stent is inserted. The stent consists of a metal mesh and is intended to prevent further narrowing.
After successful acute treatment, the patient is usually monitored for one night on our intensive care unit or in the intermediate care area and receives further treatment with medication.
Once the circulation is stable, the physical rehabilitation training begins. The patient receives light food and is quickly mobilised under physiotherapist guidance.
PROSPECTS: LIVING WITH A DISEASE
If their progress is uncomplicated, the patient can leave the hospital after 2 to 3 days. For heart attack patients, not only are the best stent therapy and long-term medication needed, but so too usually is a change in lifestyle. Stress, lack of exercise, poor diet and smoking are factors that promote a relapse. Therefore, subsequent rehabilitation is recommended, during which the patient learns to cope with and process the disease. In addition to exercise therapy and health education, mental stabilisation is therefore also part of the programme.
We also recommend participation in outpatient cardiac groups (so-called cardiac sports groups) to facilitate reintegration into everyday and professional life and to prevent a new heart attack.
In order to help people with chronic diseases of the cardiovascular system or following a heart attack to make the necessary lifestyle changes, the Havelhöhe Heart School also offers a comprehensive weekly programme.
In group therapy, patients and their partners learn about heart-healthy lifestyles and realise that giving up negative habits quickly leads to a better quality of life.
You can find more information at: www.herzschule.org