Heart Attack Survivors Have Conflicts About Recurrence

Nearly two-thirds of heart attack patients said they feared a second heart attack, more so than dying, but more than a third spurned some basic lifestyle preventive measures, according to a survey.

Among 518 adult heart attack survivors, 63% said they feared a second heart attack and 56% said they feared they would develop chronic heart failure, but only 32% said they feared death, according to an online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive in October.

Yet 40% of this group felt they weren’t doing enough to prevent another heart attack. Only 42% said they exercised regularly and 61% said they watched what they ate.

On the other hand, 92% said they complied with important standard secondary prevention approaches as prescribed by a physician. Eighty-nine percent said they took aspirin, 85% said they took statins, 61% said they took beta blockers, 26% said they took ACE inhibitors, and 29% said they took unspecified other medications. Eighty-two percent said their blood pressure was under control.

The survey found that patients had experienced on average one heart attack, which had occurred about six years prior to the interview. Sixty-nine percent said a cardiologist diagnosed their heart attack while 59% said an emergency room physician diagnosed it. Twenty percent said a primary care doctor diagnosed it.

Eighty-three percent of the group said they had at one time or another been diagnosed with elevated cholesterol, 52% with arthritis, 37% with diabetes, and 13% with cancer.

The survey also showed significant differences in how men and women cared for themselves after a heart attack. Overall, men reported they felt more prepared for a recurrent heart attack than women (92% vs. 84%, respectively).

Women were less likely to see their doctor on a regular basis compared with men (78% vs. 92%, respectively) and men, more so than women, were more likely to seek help with their treatment from someone other than a health care professional, such as a spouse (86% vs. 72%, respectively).

The survey also showed that while the majority of heart attack patients appear to be coping, many said they would like more information and more support. Among the survey’s other key findings:

  • 91% said their heart attack was a wake-up call and 90% of the respondents said their heart attack forced them to face their own mortality. For many of these patients, this instigated positive changes in their lives;  
  • 85% said they felt they had received a second chance in life;  
  • 55% said their heart attack pushed them to reevaluate their priorities. For example, 89% said they wanted to see their children and grandchildren grow up and 50% said they wanted to spend more time with their families.  
  • When it comes to health-care information, patients overwhelming felt they could benefit from more; 80% said they wanted more information about managing the risk factors for a heart attack and what medication is right for them.  
  • Seven out of ten patients said they would benefit from the advice of other heart attack survivors.  
  • On preventing a heart attack, 41% said there is insufficient information about how to prevent an initial heart attack while 38% said there’s not enough information on how to prevent recurrent heart attacks.  
  • Nearly three-fourths said they relied on their families for emotional support after a heart attack; however 29% said they wished they had better support after a heart attack.  
  • Women reported feeling more alone than men after a heart attack, 54% vs. 34%.  
  • Women also felt they lacked support; only 29% of women said they had a caregiver who helped them stick to a healthy diet and exercise vs. 73% of the men and only 37% of the women said they had someone to remind them to take their medicine compared with 70% of the men.

The survey was commissioned by Mended Heart, a support group with ties to the American Heart Association. It was funded by GlaxoSmithKline.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 18, 2011
Last revised: by Dave R. Roger, M.D.