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Heart Attack Contributions by ColleenO

Article Revisions

American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lungusa.org/. Accessed July 15, 2008.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/. Accessed July 15, 2008.

National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/. Accessed July 15, 2008.

3/25/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Parkes G, Greenhalgh T, Griffin M, Dent R. Effect on smoking quit rate of telling patients their lung age: the Step2quit randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2008;336:598-600.

7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : Myung SK, McDonnell DD, Kazinets G, Seo HG, Moskowitz JM. Effects of Web- and computer-based smoking cessation programs: meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169:929-937.

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A number of different health professionals may have different methods and products that can support you in quitting smoking.

  • MD
  • Naturopathic doctor
  • Acupuncturist
  • Herbalist
  • Nutritionist
  • Health coach
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There are a number of ways to quit smoking. For more information and tips, see the Smoking Cessation article.

You don't have to quit alone. In fact, quitting with a friend or loved one can increase both of your chances for success.

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Quitting smoking improves heart health, decreases your likelihood of having a heart attack, and increases the likelihood that you'll survive if you do have a heart attack.

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Cigarette smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack and are more likely to die from a heart attack than nonsmokers. Patients who continue to smoke in the presence of already established coronary heart disease are at increased risk for repeated heart attack and sudden cardiac death. So, if you're at risk for a heart attack or have already have one, you should seriously consider quitting.

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Quitting smoking improves heart health, decreases your likelihood of having a heart attack, and increases the likelihood that you'll survive if you do have a heart attack.

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Cardiac rehabilitation refers to a structured and monitored exercise program. Exercise is an essential part of your recovery. It will help you gain strength and decrease your risk of another heart attack. Cardiac rehab programs include education about how to manage your condition.

As another form of physical activity, sex deserves consideration. Having a heart attack and/or bypass or other interventional surgery can be a very traumatic experience. But with time, patience, and an understanding and sympathetic partner, there is no reason why people with heart conditions can't enjoy satisfying love lives. (See "Sex After a Heart Attack," below, for more information.)

Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is a good idea for anyone who smokes, especially people with major health challengeswho are at risk for or have had a heart attack. Cigarette smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack and are more likely to die from a heart attack than nonsmokers. Patients who continue to smoke in the presence of already established coronary heart disease are at increased risk for repeated heart attack and sudden cardiac death. While the risk is not as great as with smoking cigarettes, smoking other products or inhaling second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Chelation therapy is a controversial treatment that has been suggested as an alternative to surgical treatments for CAD and angina. When performed correctly by a qualified practitioner, it is relatively harmless, though it might also offer few or no benefits.

Note: If you have had a heart attack and/or are at risk for having one, your condition requires conventional medical evaluation and supervision. Natural treatments such as exercise may complement standard medical care when monitored by an appropriate healthcare professional. Consult with your physician regarding all dosage and safety issues.

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What is typically called a "heart-healthy diet" involves limiting sodium, certain types of fat, and cholesterol, while emphasizing more healthful foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.

Because of the link between diabetes and heart disease, some experts consider a low-glycemic diet or low-carbohydrate diet to be the most heart-healthy option. To find what works best for you, talk with your doctor, investigate your options, and experiment.

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Cardiac rehabilitation refers to a structured and monitored exercise program. Exercise is an essential part of your recovery. It will help you gain strength and decrease your risk of another heart attack. Cardiac rehab programs include education about how to manage your condition.

As another form of physical activity, sex deserves consideration. Having a heart attack and/or bypass or other interventional surgery can be a very traumatic experience. But with time, patience, and an understanding and sympathetic partner, there is no reason why people with heart conditions can't enjoy satisfying love lives. (See "Sex After a Heart Attack," below, for more information.)

Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is a good idea for anyone who smokes, especially people who are at risk for or have had a heart attack. Cigarette smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack and are more likely to die from a heart attack than nonsmokers. Patients who continue to smoke in the presence of already established coronary heart disease are at increased risk for repeated heart attack and sudden cardiac death. While the risk is not as great as with smoking cigarettes, smoking other products or inhaling second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Chelation therapy is a controversial treatment that has been suggested as an alternative to surgical treatments for CAD and angina. When performed correctly by a qualified practitioner, it is relatively harmless, though it might also offer few or no benefits.

Note: If you have had a heart attack and/or are at risk for having one, your condition requires conventional medical evaluation and supervision. Natural treatments such as exercise may complement standard medical care when monitored by an appropriate healthcare professional. Consult with your physician regarding all dosage and safety issues.

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If you have had a heart attack and/or are at risk for a heart attack, consider the following dietary recommendations for heart health:

  • Build your diet around fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and fish (particularly fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon).
  • Lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 ounces a day. A moderate amount of alcohol may help raise your HDL ("good cholesterol") levels.
  • Limit your intake of saturated fat, trans fats, and cholesterol.
  • If you have diabetes, eat a diet that helps you keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.

For other lifestyle recommendations for preventing heart attacks, click here.

A number of supplements have demonstrated promise as worthwhile complements to standard care for heart attacks:

Supplements that may be recommended after a heart attack, but that do not yet have much research evidence for this purpose, include:

Note: If you have had a heart attack and/or are at risk for having one, your condition requires conventional medical evaluation and supervision. Natural treatments such as dietary modifications and supplements may complement standard medical care when monitored by an appropriate healthcare professional. Consult with your physician regarding all dosage and safety issues.

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Some herbal options may be helpful for preventing and/or treating heart attacks:

  • Red yeast rice has properties similar or even identical to prescription statins and had demonstrated great benefits according to a few studies.
  • Garlic extract has shown great potential to help prevent heart attacks and reduce mortality in people who do have heart attacks.
  • Hawthorn is recommended for people with congestive heart failure because it may help stabilize heart rhythms and improve the heart's pumping ability. It may also be useful preventing or treating heart attacks.

Note: If you have had a heart attack and/or are at risk for having one, your condition requires conventional medical evaluation and supervision. Natural treatments such as herbs may complement standard medical care when monitored by an appropriate healthcare professional. Consult with your physician regarding all dosage and safety issues.

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A double-blind study performed in China compared an alcohol extract of red yeast rice (Xuezhikang) against placebo in almost 5,000 people with heart disease.25 Over a 4-year study period, use of the supplement reportedly reduced heart attack rate by about 45% as compared to placebo, and total mortality by about 35%.

At least three other studies, all from this same original population of participants, have found similar results in diabetics with heart disease26 and in patients with previous heart attack,27,28 with surprisingly large reductions in the rates of coronary events (eg, heart attack) and mortalitydeath. Some experts consider these findings to be potentially unreliable because the levels of reported benefit are so high and so similar. )

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Garlic may have a number of benefits for the heart, though specific effects are not clear. It may help prevent heart attacks by acting as a blood thinner.15-18,112 Garlic may also help reduce high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

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Cardiac rehabilitation refers to a structured and monitored exercise program. Exercise is an essential part of your recovery. It will help you gain strength and decrease your risk of another heart attack. Cardiac rehab programs include education about how to manage your condition.

As another form of physical activity, sex deserves consideration. Having a heart attack and/or bypass or other interventional surgery can be a very traumatic experience. But with time, patience, and an understanding and sympathetic partner, there is no reason why people with heart conditions can't enjoy satisfying love lives. (See "Sex After a Heart Attack," below, for more information.)

Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is a good idea for anyone who smokes, especially people who are at risk for or have had a heart attack. Cigarette smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have a heart attack and are more likely to die from a heart attack than nonsmokers. Patients who continue to smoke in the presence of already established coronary heart disease are at increased risk for repeated heart attack and sudden cardiac death. While the risk is not as great as with smoking cigarettes, smoking other products or inhaling second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and heart attack.

Che Chelation therapy is a controversial treatment that has been suggested as an alternative to surgical treatments for CAD and angina. When performed correctly by a qualified practitioner, it is relatively harmless, though it might also offer few or no benefits.

Note: If you have had a heart attack and/or are at risk for having one, your condition requires conventional medical evaluation and supervision. Natural treatments such as exercise may complement standard medical care when monitored by an appropriate healthcare professional. Consult with your physician regarding all dosage and safety issues.

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Stress contributes directly and indirectly to heart disease and heart attacks. Learning how to manage stress effectively and relax regularly could help heal heart disease, prevent heart attacks, and help you recover from a heart attack.11-13

Heart disease and heart attacks can affect your sex life. This may have consequences for your relationships and be an extra source of stress. For more information, see Sex After a Heart Attack.

In addition to developing a regular practice of stress management and relaxation, you might consider counseling, support groups, and your own personal circle of supportive relationships. Dean Ornish, a well-regarded physician, believes that the love and support we give and receive through relationships is essential to our health, and a great deal of research on social support and health supports this claim. To learn more, read Dr. Ornish's books, including Love & Survival and Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease.

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Anxiety and stress can contribute to heart attack episodes. They can also can contribute to the conditions that underly a heart conditiondisease. Learning how to manage stress effectively and relax regularly could promote the health of your heart and improve your quality of life.

For more information, see the articles on stress management and relaxation therapies.

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You can learn and practice many stress management and relaxation techniques on your own, and for little or no money. You can also consult with a variety of professionals who offer personalized guidance and instruction. Consider the following:

  • Yoga instructor or therapist
  • Hypnotherapist
  • Practitioner of guided imagery and relaxation
  • Biofeedback specialist
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There is almost an endless number of techniques for managing stress and inducing relaxation. Some techniques are very low-tech; you can do them anywhere, at anytime, and can learn them on your own. Other techniques are more elaborate and might involve the instruction of a trained professional, such as a yoga therapist. The bottom line is that you should find something that fits with you and your life, and do it regularly.

Consider the following:

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Evidence The work of Dean Ornish, MD, suggests that a program of intensive lifestyle modification, involving an extremely low-fat diet along with exercise and stress reduction, can actually reverse coronary artery disease in people who have had heart attacks, or are at high risk for it.11-13

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  1. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH, et al. Intensive lifestyle changes for reversal of coronary heart disease. JAMA. 1998;280:2001-2007.
  2. Ornish D. Avoiding revascularization with lifestyle changes: The Multicenter Lifestyle Demonstration Project. Am J Cardiol. 1998;82:72T-76T.
  3. Ornish D, Brown SE, Scherwitz LW, et al. Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial. Lancet. 1990;336:129-133.
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