Proper behavior in the event of a heart attack can save lives and prevent consequential damage
If you quickly recognize the first signs of a heart attack and know how to classify it correctly, you can start therapy much faster, increasing your chances of survival. It is better to contact the emergency call again than to wait too long. You can find out more about the first symptoms of a heart attack and how to recognize them in this article.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack in good time and then immediately alert an ambulance. This is the only way to protect the heart from permanent damage (heart failure). "Unfortunately, more than half of all heart attack deaths have to be complained about before reaching the clinic because those who are suspected of having a heart attack hesitate too long before 112 or do not correctly assign the heart attack symptoms," reports Prof. Dr. med. Heribert Schunkert Medical Director of the German Heart Center Munich.
Heart attack symptoms: Chest pain is not always the main symptom
Heart attack symptoms are often non-specific in older people, especially women. "Many heart attack deaths in women could be avoided if the heart attack symptoms were interpreted correctly - and valuable time was saved," emphasizes Professor Dr. Christiane Tiefenbacher, head of cardiology at Marien-Hospital Wesel, in a press release. In particular, the sometimes lacking severe chest pain often distracts from the fact that it is a heart attack. To make matters worse, older women often live alone and in an emergency no one calls the ambulance for them.
Recognize non-specific symptoms of a heart attack
"The absence of chest pain is an age effect that can also be found in men," reports the heart specialist. The older the heart attack sufferers are, the more likely it is that chest pain will not occur. Instead, the elderly often report:
- Abdominal pain,
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Excessive (profuse) sweating,
- Back pain,
- Shortness of breath,
Heart attack symptoms are often interpreted as an upset stomach
The symptoms are perceived less intensively with increasing age. Severe pain takes a back seat, instead unspecific complaints such as abdominal pain and nausea come to the fore. "These are often misinterpreted by the women concerned as harmless stomach upset," warns Dr. Tiefenbacher. The specialist advises older people to call the emergency services if they experience these symptoms or if they suspect a heart attack. In addition, there is also the possibility to be connected to a house emergency call system, which is offered, for example, by the Malteser Hilfsdienst, the Johannitern, the Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund or the German Red Cross.
Hundreds of thousands of heart attacks in Germany every year
When people have a heart attack, it is especially important to react quickly. A heart attack can trigger life-threatening arrhythmias (ventricular fibrillation). These can then lead to dangerous damage to the so-called heart tissue. Heart attacks are unfortunately widespread. Every year there are almost 300,000 people in Germany who suffer a heart attack and over 48,000 people die from the consequences, the experts explain.
Correct and quick action can prevent any damage to the heart muscle
By acting quickly, the heart specialist says that any damage to the heart muscle can be averted. Life after the disease can usually continue with an unchanged level of performance if the treating physicians are able to promptly open the coronary artery closed by the blood clot, says Professor Schunkert.
Where can I get advice after a heart attack?
Of course, it is also important how patients behave after a heart attack to avoid possible damage and negative effects. For such people, there are special advisors from experts who provide cardiac patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) or after surviving a heart attack information on how to improve the health of the heart. For example, the German Heart Foundation offers the “Heart in Danger: Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Attack”, which can be requested free of charge.
How can affected people protect themselves from another heart attack?
In general, according to the expert, the aftercare after a heart attack is not taken enough. Actually, the question arises whether a surviving heart attack is not a kind of indication of another heart attack that is yet to come.
If those affected recognize a heart attack in good time and survive the incident unscathed thanks to their quick and correct response, the heart attack treatment does not end in the catheter laboratory, according to the German Heart Center in Munich. Coronary heart disease is often the trigger for a heart attack and this heart disease does not end just because those affected have a heart attack, but continues to exist afterwards. This type of disease has to be treated with the help of a so-called triple therapy, say the experts.
The heart disease persists even after a heart attack
Many sufferers repress the fact that a coronary heart disease is still present after the heart attack. However, if those affected continue to live as before the heart attack, they risk another heart attack. It is very important that coronary artery disease is treated to avoid the increased risk of another heart attack. If, however, those affected continue to do exactly as before the infarction without treating their CHD, they risk another heart attack, warns Professor Schunkert.
Benefits from triple therapy
If affected heart patients take their rehabilitation seriously after a heart attack, the risk of another heart attack can be averted. Triple follow-up after a heart attack is able to prevent or at least slow the progress of coronary artery disease. Such therapy includes, for example, taking various medications that prevent clots from forming, lower cholesterol, and are used to treat high blood pressure and damage to the heart muscle.
Affected people have to change their diet and exercise more
In order to achieve the necessary lifestyle changes, which lead to a reduction in the risk of myocardial infarction, there is an urgent need to improve the diet and daily physical activity. Regular exercise and exercises to improve endurance (at best 30 minutes 5 times a week) are an important first step. The second step is to switch to a healthier diet. Here, for example, the so-called Mediterranean cuisine is ideal. The third important point in avoiding further heart attacks is the consistent avoidance of all infarct risk factors such as diabetes, obesity, smoking and stress, the researchers advise.
Most people do not do rehab after a heart attack
In rehabilitation, heart attack patients can learn to deal better with their illness. Those affected can familiarize themselves with a healthy lifestyle and also deal with questions about professional reintegration. Surprisingly, only a few people with a heart attack choose important rehab after their illness. It is estimated that only about half of heart attack patients receive follow-up treatment. 20 to 30 percent of patients also need psychological support to deal with fears of another infarction. (as)