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25 Percent Do Not Change Bad Health Habits After Heart Attack, Stroke

Theres no stronger scare tactic into leading a healthy lifestyle than suffering a heart attack or stroke, which is why it may be surprising that many survivors dont make changes needed to improve their health.

A study published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows one in four men doesnt make any lifestyle changes after a heart attack, stroke or other major cardiac event. Women were more likely to change unhealthy behaviors, and urban residents were more likely to make at least two lifestyle changes than those who lived in rural areas.

Three behaviors were included for the study: smoking cessation, healthy eating and physical exercise. Out of 7,519 patients surveyed in 17 countries, just 4.3 percent of participants improved their habits in all three areas, more than 30 percent made two lifestyle changes and more than 47 percent changed at least one lifestyle behavior to better their health.

Dr. Mark Friedman, a cardiologist at the SSM Heart Institute, said changing ones lifestyle can be very difficult.

Patients dont want to be talked down to, he said. They dont want to be told theyre bad.

But much of the problem is lack of education. While patients used to stay in the hospital for up to two weeks after a cardiac event, they now are discharged within a day or two. This leaves little time for the medical staff to educate patients on what happened to them and what it could mean for their future.

Friedman attempts to motivate patients by starting small. While the American Heart Association recommends walking for 30 minutes a day five times a week, the SSM cardiologist encourages his patients to begin with walking three days a week. He also recommends frozen fish and fruit for those on a low budget.

What really surprised Friedman about the study is that patients had the most success with smoking cessation more than 52 percent. People in wealthier countries had more success than those in poorer countries, the study showed. Friedman said higher income individuals are likely to have more education and resources to quit smoking.

The numbers pleased him, though, as Friedman said smoking cessation is one of the best ways to avoid heart disease. Still, he said he believes it is one of the hardest habits for his patients to cut, and they have to really want to stop for it to work.

Other changes include diet, with 39 percent reporting eating more healthful food, and physical activity, with 35 percent saying they were more active.

Urban area residents were 22 percent more likely in the study than those in rural areas to make at least two lifestyle changes. Friedman said this could again be because of more education and resources in cities. More physical activity was reported by people at all income levels.

Women were more likely than men to make lifestyle changes after a major cardiac event.

More than 7 percent of women made all three recommended lifestyle changes, compared to less than 2.5 percent of men. They were also 66 percent more likely than men to make at least two lifestyle changes, and more than 26 percent of men changed nothing compared to about 7 percent of women.

Friedman and his team do their best to educate victims of major cardiac events by bringing in dietitians and models that show whats happening in the patients body. Then they have a mandatory follow-up visit.

Deb Garbo, a nurse practitioner, sees patients shortly after their release from the hospital to prescribe medications and treatment. She said many people dont absorb what theyre taught in the hospital because theyre more focused on being released, so its her duty to reteach the patients everything.

Garbo assesses patients readiness to make changes. Sometimes they will tell her that they arent confident they can handle breaking a habit, so she doesnt force it on them.

A scared straight method that Garbo uses sometimes is she will ask the patients to hang a photo of their heart stent in their homes so they can look at it when theyre tempted to smoke a cigarette or eat unhealthily.

One way to succeed is to participate in a cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program, she said.

At SSM, patients are overseen by a medical director for an hour three times a week for exercise and education. Amy Puricelli, a nurse at the St. Marys Health Center cardio rehab, said the patients she sees usually are genuinely trying to make changes.

However, only 10 percent to 20 percent of patients eligible for cardiac rehab actually sign up for the program. Many people may not be able to fit it into their work schedule.

Rose Burns, 70, a St. Louis resident, had a heart stent procedure four years ago because of a clogged artery and had to receive another stent in April.

Burns believed she was not at risk because of her slender build, so she continued to eat unhealthily after her first event. Now that shes in the cardiac rehab program, she said she feels more motivated because nurses hold her accountable by asking about her daily habits.

Im running out of years, she said. That makes a big difference in your life. Its very important to me to have a lifestyle of better eating habits.

Fred Piercefield, 73, of Kirkwood, had a heart attack in June 2012 and again in June of this year. He said he changed his diet after his first attack and did the cardiac rehab, but after his second attack hes more aggressively making lifestyle changes.

A heart attack makes a believer out of you, and it shows you that youre not invincible and not immortal, he said.

Though the percentage of people making lifestyle changes after a major cardiac event is not as high as it could be, Friedman said he thinks there has been improvement, considering more than 50 percent quit smoking and 39 percent reported keeping a healthier diet.

Were on the right track, he said. But a lot more has to be done for sure.

Original Story Here

Resources:

Be Well On Your Way: Journey to a More Authentic You (Paperback) tagged “healthy lifestyle” 88 times

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Comments

  1. Reply

    What Exactly Is A Healthy Lifestyle And Is It The Same For Everyone? Does a healthy lifestyle depends on a person’s age, religion, etc?

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • August 16, 2013
      Reply

      While we aren’t one size fits all, the tenets of a healthy lifestyle are those that we can all follow. It’s hard to go wrong with eating adequate calories composed of healthy foods. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low fat/nonfat dairy is suggested. Monitoring portions sizes and preparing food in a healthy manner is advised. Watch sodium intake as well and limit high sugar/high fat foods. Follow any diets that are recommended by your RD/MD with regard to specific disease states that you may have, such as diabetes, and take any medications as prescribed. Maintain a healthy weight and exercise a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days per week, if able.

      View Comment
  2. Reply

    How The Computer Is Supporting Us In Our Healthy Lifestyle? How do computer helps people in their healthy lifestyle? How can The computer help people? Is it from websites? advertisements? I need it really badly. How can the computer is supporting to improve our healthy lifestyle. in what ways? How can computer promote the quality of healthy lifestyle. How can computer convince people to stop unnecessary things like drugs or alcohol? How can computer HELP us?
    AT least 6-8 points would do. thank you.

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • August 16, 2013
      Reply

      The computer is not a healthy lifestyle for people. It programs us to thinking we can find everything on here. Jobs, pay bills, shop, everything! We can do that ourselves and it seems technology is taking the chores away from us, that can be easily done by human themself. The computer can help us though when we need to find information, imformation fast. Websites help us retain information, advertisements are just like commericals there just trying to sell or maniupulate us to buy whatever their advertising. The computer is not improving our healthy lifestyle. Peoples eyes can go out of sight and hurt very badly(like mine and i’m only 15 years old.) from years and years staring at the computer. The worst thing to stare at is a computer screen — I don’t know why I still do it for hours at end, but I do. The computer will never promote the quality of healthy lifestyle, its just not possible. The computer can convince people to stop drugs and alcohol but if you think about it would you rather have an obsession over the computer for hours at the day, you have to be near the computer you have to be on it then doing drugs or alcohol? The computer is just as bad addiction as alcohol and drugs. The computer cannot HELP us other then give us fast information when we need it. The computer although has so much information and so many untrusted sites you never know if what your reading is a lie. And I hope I get 10 points because I just wasted my time answering this long question, I hope you weren’t just asking this for the heck of this — I hope it was for some essay lol.

      Take care bye

      View Comment
  3. Reply

    How Do You Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle? Please comment on your suggestions to maintain a healthy lifestyle, add any concerns or issues you have concerning you’re healt, and i’ll be happy to educate you further.

    View Comment
      • HealthNut
      • August 16, 2013
      Reply

      I eat healthy – vegetables, fruit, lots of water, minimal sugar consumption, etc.
      I don’t smoke.
      I don’t drink in excess.
      I don’t do drugs.
      I exercise at least twice a week.
      I try to get enough sleep every night (minimum of 7 hours).

      View Comment
  4. Reply

    How To Keep A Healthy Lifestyle Up At School? I’ve recently started exercising and eating healthily, in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle, as well as lose weight. I go back to school in September, and I’ve been doing absolutely brilliantly so far. However, I’m definitely a stress eater, and especially with lots of exams coming up this and next year, I’m gonna be more stressed than ever. I don’t want to lose my progress or put all the weight back on. As well as this, I’m worried I won’t have time to work out as I’ll be tired from school in the daytime, so it could get difficult. Does anyone have any tips that could help me maintain what I’m doing for when I go back to school?

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