How to Prevent a Second Heart Attack
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May 3, 2012, last updated June 6, 2012
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
In the time it takes to fill the kettle and turn it on for a cup of coffee
(about 34 seconds) someone in the United States has a heart attack,
according to the American Heart Association. According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, around 785,000 Americans suffer
a first heart attack each year. Another 470,000 who have already had
one or more heart attacks have another attack. Are there any natural
remedies to prevent another heart attack. What foods, herbs and
habits work best to prevent that second or third heart attack?
If you have suffered a heart attack you’ll know it came about because
the blood flow that sends oxygen to the heart was reduced or cut off.
The heart muscle, when it suffers a loss of oxygen, begins to die. The
amount of damage caused would depend on how much of the heart
was affected by the loss of blood flow, and how much time passed
between heart attack and treatment.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 400,000
to 500,000 of heart attack sufferers die, 50% die before they reach
the hospital. That leaves around half of heart attack patients living to
see another day.
If you have suffered one heart attack, however, the risk of
experiencing a second one is higher. Although the heart is a very
tough organ, when all or part of it is damaged it becomes weaker. It
can’t pump blood as effectively as before. The scar tissue that forms in
the damaged area doesn’t pump and contract as well as unblemished
muscle tissue. According to the American Heart Association, most heart
attack survivors have some degree of coronary artery disease.
Take your heart attack as a wake-up call, never to be repeated again.
Ultimately, you are responsible for your health post-heart attack.
Medical expertise and prescription drugs can help lower your risk of a
second heart attack but if you don’t look after your health, the risk of
heart attack and death increase dramatically. You are more at risk if
you are older (about 82 percent of people who die of coronary heart
disease are 65 or above, according to the American Heart Association)
and male. How can you help prevent a second heart attack? What
nutrition and lifestyle changes can you make?
If you smoke a packet of cigarettes a day, you are more than twice as
likely to have a heart attack and you are two to four times more likely
to develop coronary heart disease than a non-smoker. Startling
statistics, courtesy of the American Heart Association, that should
make it clear you need to kick the habit after heart attack number one.
With a weaker heart muscle, it is even more important to give up
smoking for good.
Follow A Healthy Diet
Looking at your diet from a wide perspective can help you live longer
and prevent a second heart attack occurring. Diet is an important
factor in preventing a second heart attack.
The American Heart Association developed the Therapeutic Lifestyle
Changes diet for people at high risk of a heart attack or who have
cardiovascular disease. The Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes diet
recommends less than seven percent of total calories from saturated
fats, less then 200mg of dietary cholesterol a day, 10 to 25 grams of
fiber a day, and a total calorific intake that maintains a desirable body
weight and doesn’t cause weight gain.
Carbohydrates should make up 50 to 60 percent of total calories,
coming from foods rich in complex carbohydrates like whole grains,
fruits and vegetables. Fuel your body with lean meats, fish, low-fat
dairy and fruit and vegetables.
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet (low in fat plus high in fish oil) also
showed benefit in reducing the risk of recurrent heart attacks in
previous heart attack sufferers and significantly benefited overall and
cardiovascular-event-free survival after heart attack, according to
2008 research from The Heart Institute of Spokane, Sacred Heart
Medical Center, Spokane, Washington.
Cut your alcohol intake as too much alcohol can raise your blood
pressure and cause heart failure. However, according to the American
Heart Association the risk of heart disease in people who drink
moderate amounts of alcohol is lower than in non-drinkers. Limit your
drinking to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more
than one drink per day for women.
Commit To Exercise, Long-Term
As well as a healthy diet, exercise is key to maintaining your health and
preventing a second heart attack. After the recovery period following
your heart attack you should commit to a long-term exercise program.
The American Heart Association says you should get enough moderate
exercise to expend at least 200 kcal per day. Physical activity can help
you control your cholesterol levels, diabetes and obesity, as well as
help lower blood pressure – all factors which contribute to a higher
risk of heart attack. A 2000 study from the University of Texas found
people who increased their activity levels after their first heart attack
had a 78 percent lower chance of having a second heart attack and an
89 percent lower risk of death than those that remained sedentary.
Know The Signs And Symptoms of Heart Attack
Make sure you know all the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and
heart disease – you may experience different symptoms the second
time around. If you catch heart symptoms early you can find medical
assistance before you experience a potentially catastrophic episode.
Most heart attacks involve chest discomfort that lasts more than a few
minutes, or goes away and returns. The discomfort in the center of the
chest can feel like a squeezing, a fullness, or pain.
You may have discomfort in other areas of the body, such as the arms,
neck, jaw, back or stomach.
You may have shortness of breath, nausea or light-headedness. It’s
important to know the difference between the symptoms of heart
attack and angina, which is common in people who have heart disease.
Angina chest pain commonly occurs after physical exertion and goes
away after a few minutes. The discomfort from a heart attack is much
more severe and it doesn’t go away when you rest. If you’re not sure,
call 911. ( Read more actual heart attack experiences from survivors
Think About Sex and Health Following Heart Attack
Does sex pose a risk to your heart following a heart attack? In
general, doctors advise patients to avoid sexual intercourse for four to
six weeks following a heart attack, while the heart heals. But after this
time, could sex cause problems for your heart? A review of literature
by the University of Southern California, The Heart Institute, 2006
found only around 0.6 percent of sudden cardiac deaths could have
been related to sexual activity. 2002 research from the Department of
Social Medicine, University of Bristol, UK found that frequency of sex
was not linked with stroke risk in the 914 men taking part in the 20-
And, most importantly, they found that having sex at least twice a
week cut the risk of a fatal heart attack by half for men. (Read more
about whether you should have sex after a heart attack.)
Take Coenzyme Q10
According to a 1998 study from the Heart Research Laboratory, Centre
of Nutrition Medical Hospital and Research Centre, Moradabad, India
the supplement coenzyme Q10 has a protective effect on the heart
following a heart attack. Participants in the trial experienced fewer
heart-related problems like angina pectoris or arrhythmia, and patients
taking the supplement had fewer recurrent heart attacks.
Coenzyme Q10 taken with the antioxidant selenium also shows
promise for protecting the heart following a heart attack, according to
a 1994 study from Klinik für Innere Medizin (Department of Internal
Medicine), Klinikum Südstadt, Rostock, Germany.
Up Your Antioxidant Levels
Speaking of antioxidants, these free radical-neutralizing agents help
eradicate the harmful substances that cause heart cell death following
a heart attack. A 1996 study from the Heart Research Laboratory,
Medical Hospital and Research Centre, Moradabad, India showed
people who took a combination of antioxidants – vitamin A, vitamin C,
vitamin E, and beta-carotene – for 28 days, after they had experienced
a heart attack benefited from less heart cell damage and less risk of
complications and further cardiac events.
Get L-carnitine Help For Hearts
Following a heart attack, the heart muscle can enlarge and lose its
regular function. According to a 1995 study from the Institute of
Cardiology, University of Bari, Italy the amino acid L-carnitine is
potentially of value to the heart following a heart attack because it
reduces heart enlargement.
In the study, 101 people took the supplement for one month after
their heart attack and reduced the extent of their dead heart tissue.
Similar benefits came to light in a 1992 study from the Department of
Cardiovascular Medicine, Santa Chiara Hospital, Pisa, Italy.
Take Omega-3 Fatty Acids To Lower Your Risk of A Second Heart
Omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oil can help lower blood
pressure and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and heart
A 2006 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that
eating around two grams of omega-3 fatty acids per week (equal to
around two servings of fatty fish) cut the risk of dying from heart
disease by more than one-third.
A number of other studies, including a 2008 study from Brigham and
Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, conclude that omega-3
fatty acids have a protective effect on the heart, help prevent heart
arrhythmias and prevent sudden death following a heart attack.
Meaning, omega-3 fatty acids should be included in your heart attack
Eat Garlic To Lower Heart Attack Risk?
In a 1989 study by Bordia entitled “Garlic and coronary heart
disease/The effects of garlic extract therapy over three years on the
reinfarction and mortality rate”, people who had been through a heart
attack took either garlic oil extract or no treatment over three years.
Those taking garlic had a significantly reduced risk of a second heart
attack and there was a 50 percent reduction in deaths. However,
exercise caution if you are also taking aspirin to lower your risk of a
second heart attack as garlic supplements and aspirin can cause
Use Red Yeast Rice To Reduce Your Heart Attack Risk
Red yeast rice is made by fermenting a special type of yeast over rice.
The remedy has been touted as a heart helper and a 2006 study from
the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical
College, Beijing, China showed use of the supplement reduced the rate
of heart attack by around 45 percent in 5,000 people with heart
Other studies have found similar benefits in the same study group of
people, in particular for those that had had previous heart attacks.
Take Niacin With Care To Improve Heart Health
A number of studies demonstrate niacin’s power in reducing levels of
bad LDL cholesterol, and thus contributing to heart health post-heart
attack, but the supplement may cause unpleasant side effects, such as
flushing, and interact with other cholesterol-lowering drugs.
A new 2012 study by doctors at Harvard University, Brigham and
Women's Hospital has discovered that men who drink two alcoholic
drinks a day after a first heart attack have a 42% decreased risk of
suffering a second heart attack. The study, led by Professor Jennifer
Pai examined 1,818 men for 20 years following their first heart attack.
Even one drink a day apparently helps. Men who drank one drink a
day or less had a 14 to 25% lower risk for a second heart attack
compared to those who never drank.
(Edited and Reviewed by the Health Editors, CollectiveWizdom)
Learn more tips to lower your risk for heart disease and you health in
Ideal Breakfast for Heart Health/My Heart Attack-Personal Stories
from Survivors/ Swollen Ankles -Causes and Cures / Sugar -The
Disease Connection / Foods That Reduce High Blood Pressure
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