Empowering Heart Patients to Live Longer

Stroke or heart attack risks can be reduced

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Taking action today will deliever many health benefits tomorrow. Patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke require substantial lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life.

Joint guidelines developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology Foundation suggest adopting healthy habits in combination with medication.

"Exercise to reduce heart disease risk."

Dr. Sidney C. Smith, Jr., chair of the guideline writing group and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, warned patients that unless are made in your behavior and medical therapy, the same blood vessel problem that caused the first heart attack or stroke will happen again. He said the second such event could result in death, and urged long-term changes to control vascular disease.

A major change is that for the first time the guidelines recommend that all patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, have undergone bypass surgery or been diagnosed with heart-related chest pain or blockages in leg arteries be referred to a comprehensive cardiac rehabilitation program.

Also recommended for heart disease patients is a screening for depression, which is common after a heart attack and can interfere with quality of life.

Patients with coronary heart disease and other vascular disease such as stroke and peripheral artery disease also should:

  • Quit smoking and steer clear of cigarette smoke
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes at least five times a week
  • Lose weight if you are overweight, obese, or have a large waist
  • Get an annual flu shot
  • Take low-dose aspirin daily unless your doctor prescribes a higher dose or recommends against it

When it comes to medications, the guidelines note that new drugs such as ticagrelor can be used instead of clopidogrel in combination with aspirin for patients receiving coronary stents. The writing group also recommended adequate statin therapy to reduce cholesterol in patients with plaque build up in their arteries.

The group deferred making recommendations on high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels because new guidelines are anticipated in 2012 from panels of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

The guidelines will be published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 3, 2011
Last Updated:
November 7, 2011