After Heart Attack, Lifestyle Changes Cut Odds of Having Another

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

Lifestyle pays off! That’s the conclusion reached by researchers at the University of Alabama (Birmingham) after analyzing questionnaires from more than four thousand heart patients in a study who experienced a heart attack, stent, or bypass surgery. The results, published in a 2014 paper in the American Journal of Cardiology, demonstrated significant prevention power over a four-and-a-half year period against recurrent problems when patients stopped smoking, participated in physical activity four or more times a week, and adopted a Mediterranean Diet.

The study provides evidence and support for lifestyle changes by patients with coronary heart disease (CHD), that is, disease of the critical coronary arteries that supply the heart. Until now there was little data to demonstrate which changes, if sustained, actually reduce recurrent CHD problems and death in cardiac patients after the acute rehabilitation period.

 My Viewpoint: Smoking is a killer. Stopping the habit can make a huge difference in preventing further events. Physical activity is also a must. Sedentary lifestyle leads to weight gain and inflammation that can contribute to arterial disease. The Mediterranean Diet, replete with healthy fats and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables, has been proven as the heart healthy way to eat in many studies over the years.
 What this Means to You: Too many patients are passive and expect to fix their health problems with pills their doctors give them, but it doesn’t work that way. Poor lifestyle choices are often at the root of cardiovascular disease. Unless individuals are willing to make better choices, they will remain sick, get worse, or risk dying from their disease – despite all the advances that modern medicine offers. Lifestyle change is a prescription that patients must follow through with.
 Recommendation: In my book, smoking is #1 of the top five sins that undermine heart health. As for exercise, a little goes a long way – start with five minute walks throughout the day, or take the dog for a stroll. Here’s a great book that can get you motivated. When it comes to nutrition, I’ve written extensively about the Pan-Asian Mediterranean (PAMM) Diet . This fresh, healthy diet focuses on minimizing carbohydrate load to reduce the insulin response in the body and replacing empty carbs with healthy fats, protein, and lots of veggies.
© 2014 HeartMD Institute. All rights reserved.
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