“When I was at Bumrungrad’s Heart Center with chest pain, I couldn’t stop thinking, “I’m in great shape. I exercise! How did I end up here?!”
Thosaporn Hongsanan is an active businessman in his early 60s who exercises every day and is in good shape. But that didn’t stop him from having a heart attack.
An Active Lifestyle
“I’ve exercised, played sports and stayed physically active doing rugby, judo, and scuba diving since I was sixteen. I am currently a trainer for scuba diving. I swim 1,000 to 1,200 meters regularly, and put in an hour at the gym daily. I also love cycling, especially long distances of 60 to 70 kilometers. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have been playing sports nonstop for most of my life,” says Thosaporn.“Everybody wondered how I still got heart disease.”
As if all the exercise and sports weren’t enough, he also does international long-distance motorcycling and pilots his private plane. To keep his pilot’s license, he undergoes rigorous physical and mental assessments twice a year.
“I take good care of my health and try to stay fit. I’m not strict about what I eat, but I watch my weight,” says Thosaporn. “At work, stress comes and goes in the usual way. But, suddenly, I had acute myocardial infarction. With my high level of physical activity? I never expected to get heart disease!”
No Warning Signs
Thosaporn’s health crisis arrived suddenly, with no warning signs. “I was at a monastery to prepare for my ordination as a Buddhist monk the following week. I felt shooting pain on my left side up to the shoulder and tightness in my chest, but that dissipated after a while so I didn’t think there was a big problem. But the next morning I felt the pain again. By now I was very concerned. The pain continued, and then my fingertips went numb. I knew it was something to do with my heart, so I went to the hospital.”
After careful examination, Bumrungrad cardiologist Dr. Visuit Vivekaphirat
diagnosed Thosaporn with acute myocardial infraction and ordered an emergency balloon angioplasty
. “The doctor’s diagnosis meant my case was now an emergency. Staff sprang into action. Within an hour they had located and treated the arterial blockage. I’m grateful and impressed by their quick response; any delay at that point could’ve been terrible for me.”
After the balloon angioplasty, Thosaporn spent three days in the hospital before resuming his three weeks of ordination training and regular exercise regimen. “Now, I feel more vibrant and energized; I can swim longer distances and feel less tired,” Thosaporn says. “I’m looking forward to my next long-distance motorcycle trip.”
From this near-death experience, Thosaporn learned that exercising and being in good shape help the body recover faster and better from illness. However, being in shape does not equal immunity from disease. He knows now that awareness and basic knowledge of self-care in a heart attack situation can save your life.
Dr. Visuit confirms that a precise and quick diagnosis is key to saving patients’ lives and preserving their ability to recover.
At the Hospital
“Thosaporn had left-side chest pains that started the day before he came to the hospital,” recalls Dr. Visuit. “On this information, we immediately did an electrocardiogram test within 10 minutes of his arrival. The cardiograph indicated acute myocardial infarction due to permanent coronary thrombosis, which means blocked blood flow through the coronary artery. If untreated, that condition causes irreversible heart muscle damage.” Delay in treatment means oxygen is not getting to the heart muscle.
Quick diagnosis was vital to saving Thosaporn’s life and preserving his heart’s function. Weakened pumping action from heart attack damage leads to greater chance of abnormal heart rhythms and future heart failure. Additionally, blood clots in the larger blood vessels can cause full infarction, which can lead to certain death. Myocardial infarction presents a mortality risk of over 10 percent, so Thosaporn was lucky to get the right treatment in the nick of time.
Causes and Treatment for Myocardial Infarction Dr. Visuit notes that Thosaporn has a family history of heart disease, smoking, hypertension, hyperglycemia and arterial plaque. When plaques rupture, they cause arterial blood clots. Such a clot caused his chest pain, but it was not continual at first because it had not yet completely blocked the flow of blood. But soon the clot grows large enough to block blood flow permanently, which leads to constant pain and heart attack because the heart does not receive oxygen.
“To stop myocardial infarction we revascularize the heart as soon as possible to restore blood circulation to the muscle,” say Dr. Visuit. “Fortunately, Thosaporn arrived at the hospital soon enough after his symptoms started; the lack of oxygen to his heart muscle had not damaged it too severely. He received an angioplasty and stenting and blood flow returned.”
Thosaporn enjoyed a quick recovery because he was in otherwise good shape. His cardiac problems calmed down, and he returned to his normal activities much faster than if he were, for example, severely overweight or diabetic.
The Current Story
“Before Thosaporn left the hospital, we conducted another echocardiogram that showed his heart functioned normally,” says Dr. Visuit. “But, he’ll need monitoring because blockages can recur. In his case, he has stenosis of 50 to 60 percent in other locations. He doesn’t need invasive treatments at present, but he must take antiplatelet and atherosclerosis medications, which can reduce ischemic (restricted oxygen flow) heart condition by 30 percent.”
The Risk Group for Myocardial Infraction
Myocardial infarction can afflict people of all ages. However, people with a family history of heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes are especially at risk. Also susceptible are menopausal women or people with risky lifestyles such as lack of exercise, stress, or smoking to name just a few. If you are in the risk group for this disease, always keep in mind the common warning signs of this disease so you can recognize it in yourself. These warning signs include sudden fatigue and chest pain. If you notice these symptoms in yourself, contact your doctor immediately so that you can receive the proper examination and treatment as soon as possible.