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June 2020

Following Doctor’s Orders Improves Survival After a Heart Attack

Having a heart attack is enough of a shock. But afterward, patients may receive another surprise when their healthcare provider hands them a long to-do list. From taking multiple meds to making several lifestyle changes, it can seem like a lot. Patients may wonder: Is it really important to do every last thing on the list?

Yes, a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows. The study included more than 25,000 patients who had experienced heart attacks. After leaving the hospital, each was given goals to work on. These goals were aimed at preventing another heart attack and improving survival.

Over the next 3 months, the researchers checked in twice with the patients to see how well they were following recommendations. The researchers also tracked the patients’ survival for up to 4 years afterward. They found that the more preventive steps people took, the more likely they were to survive.

Bouncing back from a heart attack

People in the study were advised to work on these 7 goals to protect their heart health:

  1. Take an ACE inhibitor or ARB medicine (drugs that widen blood vessels).

  2. Take a beta blocker (a medicine that decreases heart rate and the workload of the heart).

  3. Take an antiplatelet agent (a medicine that helps keep blood clots from forming).

  4. Take a cholesterol-lowering medicine.

  5. Avoid smoking.

  6. Reduce their LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol.

  7. Control their blood pressure.

Reaching those last 2 goals usually means being more active and eating healthier, too.

Meeting goals

Three months after having a heart attack, nearly one-fourth of people in the study were meeting all 7 goals. Their risk of dying within 4 years was substantially lower than those meeting 3 or fewer goals. It was even a little lower than those meeting 6 goals.

The takeaway: If you’re a heart attack survivor, ask your provider for your own health to-do list. Then work toward checking off all the tasks. Every extra bit of effort counts.

Reach out for support

Join the American Heart Association’s Support Network to share experiences and connect with other heart attack survivors.



Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2020
© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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