A heart attack is invariably a severe setback in life. Leading a healthy lifestyle and regularly taking the right medication can reduce the risk of a second heart attack or secondary complication.
Cologne // GERMANY. “Nothing is ever the same again,” says Axel Vogel. Six years ago, a myocardial infarction threw life off course for the now 57-year-old from Kerpen, Germany. Remigius Müller (52) from Rottweil, near Stuttgart, survived the same life-changing experience. A blood clot in a coronary vessel turned his life upside down in a matter of seconds: Müller suffered a heart attack at age 45. Until then, the plant manager had always thought: “How could anything stop me?” This attitude helped him cope with a busy life for years. Both men have changed their habits since their heart attacks. As they now know: “It‘s an experience you never want to go through again.”
But both men are also aware that they might have to. “When people have already survived one heart attack, the risk of having another increases for the rest of their lives, meaning that long-term medical care is imperative,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Steffen, a cardiologist in Rottweil and Müller’s attending physician. Alongside the management of cardiovascular risk factors in line with standard care practice and any necessary lifestyle changes, an especially important part of treatment is that patients regularly take their prescribed medication, including drugs that counteract blood-clotting and therefore help prevent another heart attack. “It’s also very important for patients to be aware of the many things they can do to help their heart recover,” Steffen emphasizes. “In concrete terms, that means no smoking, a different diet, regular exercise, minimized alcohol intake, stress reduction and, if necessary, treatment for depression.”
His patient, Remigius Müller, has taken this advice to heart. He wouldn’t even think of skipping his medications. Apart from acetylsalicylic acid, which inhibits platelet aggregation, he also takes blood pressure- and cholesterol-lowering medication. “I’m certain that the drugs are the reason I feel well again today,” he says.
Axel Vogel is likewise thankful for the opportunities afforded by modern medicine. “They enable me to reach the best level of performance I am still capable of.” Vogel’s heart sustained permanent damage from his heart attack. He suffers from arrhythmia and had a pacemaker implanted three years ago. In addition, his heart function has deteriorated over the years and along with it his performance capabilities. Just climbing a few stairs wears him out. Because of his extreme heart failure, Vogel has been in treatment for some time under Professor Volker Rudolph, Chief Senior Physician of the Cardiology Center at Cologne University Hospital.
people worldwide die every year of a cardiovascular disease.
(Source: American Heart Association: 2015 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update.)
Heart failure is one of the potential complications following a heart attack. “Twenty to 30 percent of patients who have had a heart attack subsequently develop heart failure,” reports Rudolph. It is a very serious condition, especially in its advanced stages. The heart is unable to pump blood through the body, causing the energy levels of sufferers to drop dramatically. “The survival time for severe heart failure is significantly shorter than for some types of cancer,” Rudolph points out. “At present, the options for using drugs to treat this disease are limited. A lot of research needs to be done in the field,” the cardiologist says. “If we could succeed in halting or possibly even healing pathological changes in the heart and blood vessels by means of regenerative therapy, it would be a major step forward.”
Developing innovative active substances to treat heart failure is one of Bayer’s main areas of research. Several projects involving different treatment methods are currently in the advanced phases of clinical development. Furthermore, Bayer scientists in the cardiovascular research unit are working on novel active ingredients to treat severe diseases of the cardiovascular system such as coronary heart disease, stroke, thrombosis and pulmonary hypertension, as well as certain kidney diseases. “Cardiovascular diseases are a strategic priority for Bayer. Our pipeline covers a wide range of heart, circulatory and vascular diseases, for which patients and physicians are desperately waiting for further improved treatments,” says Professor Andreas Busch, head of Drug Discovery in the Pharmaceuticals Division.
Bayer also offers physicians and patients digital solutions to support drug-based treatments. For example, after registering, patients with atrial fibrillation can receive a daily text message reminding them to take their pills. “In the future, apps like this will offer even more possibilities,” says Johannes Schubmehl, Chief Information Officer at Pharmaceuticals. One example is sending patient data to the attending physician.
A study of this is currently being conducted in Canada on patients with pulmonary hypertension. Cardiologist Volker Rudolph believes in the future of digital apps in medicine. “Patients won’t need to make as many visits to the doctor’s office, and we physicians will have faster access than ever before to critical results.”