Patients with a history of myocardial infarction will need appropriate follow-up in primary care to manage risk factors as far as possible, provide patient education and ensure patients are on correct medication.
Patient education to reduce risks of further MIs is important. In particular, patients should be advised to increase their fruit and vegetable intake to at least 5 portions daily, reducing salt and fat intake, adopting a Mediterranean-style diet including consumption of oily fish. Additional supplements of beta carotene, vitamin C or E are not connected with improving outcomes and reducing cardiac risks. NICE guidelines recommend post-MI patients to consume at least 7g of omega-3 fatty acids per week (2-4 portions of oil fish). For patients unable to achieve this, 1g daily omega-3 ester (Omacor) can be prescribed for up to four years for patients who have had an MI in the previous 3 months. Patients should also be advised to reduce their alcohol consumption to low-moderate levels (less than 21 units per week for men and 14 for women).
Obesity needs to be monitored and managed, as this will not only reduce lipid levels as well as blood pressure but also other conditions such as diabetes.
Smoking cessation help should be offered if appropriate. Nicotine replacement therapy is not advised immediately after an MI, but in the long-term continuing to smoke is a serious risk factor.
All post-MI patients should be offered cardiac rehabilitation with an emphasis on exercise. NICE guidelines recommend moderate exercise for 20-30 minutes (enough to feel lightly breathless) five times per week. Brisk walking is ideal. Sexual activity poses no more risk of a further MI, than in a person who had not had an MI. Although when treating erectile dysfunction it is important to remember that PDE5 (phosphodiesterase 5) inhibitors should be avoided in patients using nicorandil, but can be considered in stable patients six months post-MI.
The optimum lipid target is a total cholesterol of <4mmol/l, LDL cholesterol of <2mmol.
A brief anxiety and depression assessment may be required – referring on to mental health services if necessary.
Air travel can be considered three weeks post-MI, and although the DVLA need not necessarily be notified, it is inadvisable to drive in the four weeks immediately post-MI.
Optimum prescribing for post-MI patients includes:
Daily aspirin (proven to reduce death rate by 25%). This is a lifelong treatment and is a first-line drug. Clopidogrel may be prescribed instead of aspirin if a patient has a well-documented hyper-sensitivity. Clopidogrel may be prescribed alongside aspirin for 12 months in patients with non-ST segment elevation acute coronary syndrome.
ACE inhibitors (particularly in patients with left ventricular dysfunction or heart failure), although current NICE guidelines recommend all patients post-MI should be prescribed ACE inhibitors, after checking renal function. If the patient develops a severe cough or oedema, this would need to be reassessed.
Beta-blockers are responsible for a reduction in mortality of up to 25%. New patients may need to be informed that beta blockers can cause lethargy, but this should resolve after a few weeks.
Statins help reduce lipid levels, and it has been found that after five years’ use they prevent further cardiovascular events in 10% of patients. Statins can be started after liver function and CK has been measured to determine the patient’s baseline, although raised liver enzymes should not necessarily rule out the patient from statin therapy. A statin may be augmented by ezetimibe to reduce LDL and total cholesterol.
A low HDL cholesterol (<1mmol/l) is of particular risk to patient with type II diabetes. Fibrates are effective at raising HDL cholesterol.
Particular attention needs to be paid to the patient’s blood pressure – for post-MI patients the target is <130/80mmHg. To achieve this the beta blocker dose may need to be increased or the patient may also require a diuretic or calcium channel blocker.