The American Heart Association (AHA), with help from heart attack survivor Julie Kubala, of Superior, Wis., is launching a new educational campaign to reduce the number of repeat and recurrent heart attacks.
Kubala, 48, was struck by heart attack just after noon on March 26. On that day, she joined statistics that indicate someone, somewhere suffers a heart attack every 42 seconds in the United States alone. Now, Kubala is committed to staying clear of another statistic: 21% of women and 17% of men older than 45 have a second heart attack within five years of the first episode.
Four months after the heart attack, Kubala attends a cardiac rehabilitation program and is learning the importance of being proactive in her own health.
“I knew my family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. What hadn’t really hit me was our family history of heart disease, or how all of that can be related,” said Kubala in a press release. “I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Now I’m determined to do all I can to get healthy and to stay healthy, but it’s not easy to keep on top of everything.”
To help Kubala and others like her, the AHA aims to arm heart attack survivors with simple but effective action steps that can actively lower their risk of having a second heart attack. The educational program will unroll during the next year under the AHA’s Guideline Transformation and Optimization initiative.
Dr. Alice Jacobs, former AHA president, current chair of the organization’s advisory board in charge of the program, and vice chair for clinical affairs at Boston University Medical Center, believes that helping patients and healthcare providers know, understand and follow research-based clinical guidelines is crucial to the initiative.
“Our message is simple: don’t wait for a second heart attack,” Jacobs said. “Research shows there are some very clear things you can do to lower your chances of having another event.”
According to the press release, here are a few tips:
- Take the prescribed medication as directed – more than 33% of heart disease patients eventually fail to follow treatment plans. Nearly a third of medication-related hospital readmissions are directly linked to people who do adhere to the plan.
- Make sure to keep the follow-up doctor’s appointment – those who suffer from a heart attack and fail to have a timely follow-up appointment with their doctor can be up to 10 times more likely to require a second hospital admission.
- Find a cardiac rehabilitation program (and participate in it) – heart patients who complete cardiac rehabilitation programs are 42% less likely to die from heart issues.
- Learn to manage risk factors – control what you can such as physical activity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and obesity to lower chances of heart attack.
- Build your own strong support system – people with little social support have worse outcomes after a heart attack, including having second cardiac events.
“Having a heart attack can obviously be very traumatic, and afterwards patients and families can have a difficult time processing all that has happened, and all that needs to happen to get better,” Jacobs said. “All the questions to answer, the instructions to remember and the medical terms to understand can be overwhelming. We want to help by providing simple, easy to follow steps, easy to use tools and trackers that can help people not just recover fully from this heart attack, but prevent a future one.”