Heartfelt wake-up call sounded for heart attack survivors

12/07/05

New survey uncovers the life-changing effects of a heart attack

DALLAS – DECEMBER 8, 2005 – A new survey reveals a majority of heart attack survivors characterize their attack as a life-altering "wake-up call," giving them renewed priorities and a second chance at life. However, many of those surveyed also say their heart attack left them with feelings of depression, hopelessness or fear. In fact, the survey showed that heart attack survivors are more likely to fear having another attack than death. Surprisingly, the survey also showed that while an overwhelming majority acknowledge their increased risk for another attack, 40 percent admit they are not doing everything they can to avoid one.

"I was particularly surprised that those surveyed indicated they fear another heart attack more than death and that a substantial number of people admitted they are not doing everything they can to avoid that fear from being realized," said Gus Littlefield, national board member of Mended Hearts, a nationwide heart patient support group affiliated with the American Heart Association. "The likelihood is far too high that heart attack survivors will suffer another attack within a few years. My hope is that through the ongoing efforts of Mended Hearts and some new tools, we can educate people on how to prevent a heart attack and motivate them to take action."

In the survey, 80 percent of heart attack survivors said they needed more information to manage their heart health. In order to provide patients with this critical information, Mended Hearts today announced the launch of "Heartfelt Wake-Up Call," a multi-phased initiative to provide education, tools and support to heart attack survivors and their families. "We hope that this new initiative will empower patients and their loved ones to take an active role in preventing a future heart attack and illustrate that heart attacks, while devastating at the time, can lead to positive life changes," said Littlefield.

Mended Hearts commissioned the survey of heart attack survivors, conducted by Harris Interactive® and funded by GlaxoSmithKline, to explore the impact of a heart attack on survivors and assess education and support needs. Based on the findings, Mended Hearts has developed practical tips for "Heartfelt Living" and "Heartfelt Support." To better support heart attack survivors and their caregivers in coping with life after a heart attack, additional information including tips sheets, survivor stories and heart-healthy holiday recipes is available on www.mendedhearts.org.

Heart Attack Survivors Speak Out The survey of 518 survivors also tapped into other emotional impacts of a heart attack. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed indicated their heart attack forced them to face their own mortality (90 percent). A majority of heart attack survivors say they reevaluated their priorities in life (55 percent) and ultimately believe they have been given a second chance at life (85 percent).

"My heart attack was certainly a wake-up call and one that changed the course of my life," said Frank Rella, a heart attack survivor, paramedic and author of Manhattan Medics. "I went from feeling fear for my future to finding a new sense of purpose. I changed my career path and became a paramedic so that I could help to save the lives of others, who hopefully will ultimately recognize their own wake-up call as a second chance to live a full and healthy life."

The survey also showed that in addition to acknowledging that they are at a higher risk for having another heart attack (88 percent), the majority of heart attack survivors also recognized an increased risk of developing a chronic condition such as heart failure (84 percent).

"I see these survey results come to life in my practice every day. While many of my patients who have suffered a heart attack are very aware and afraid of their increased risk of having another one, they are not doing everything they can to live a heart-healthy life," said Dr. William Abraham, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at The Ohio State University Medical Center. "I counsel and inform appropriate patients that with the right treatments, which for many include a beta-blocker, statin, ACE inhibitor and aspirin, healthy lifestyle choices and a good support system, they can help prevent a future cardiovascular event and live a full and active life."

Survey Reveals Gender Disparities
Not only did the survey show that both men and women view their heart attack as a "wake-up call," it also revealed key differences between the two groups in how they seek treatment and the emotional impact of a heart attack. Surprisingly, women (78 percent) were less likely to see their health care professional on a regular basis than men (92 percent), and men (86 percent) were more likely than women (72 percent) to get help with their treatment from someone else aside from their healthcare professional. These differences in how the two groups seek treatment may explain why more men (31 percent) than women (18 percent) feel strongly about knowing what they need to do to prevent a future heart attack.

About Heart Attacks
Each year in the U.S., nearly one million people suffer from heart attacks, known medically as myocardial infarction. Within only six years, nearly 20 percent of men and 35 percent of women will have another one and that risk is heightened in the winter months. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is severely reduced or blocked. This narrowing of the coronary vessels is often linked with risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity and obesity. There also may be risk factors associated with family history.

About Mended Hearts
Mended Hearts is a community-based, nationwide heart patient support group founded more than 50 years ago and affiliated with the American Heart Association. More than 21,000 members operate through 280 local chapters across the United States with two in Canada. Recognized for its role in facilitating a positive patient-care experience, Mended Hearts partners with 450 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics to offer heart patient services through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums. Its mission is "dedicated to inspiring hope in heart disease patients and their families."

About the Survey
Harris Interactive® conducted this online survey on behalf of Mended Hearts between October 12 and October 20, 2005 among a nationwide cross-section of 518 U.S. adults aged 18 or older who have experienced a heart attack. Data were weighted to be representative of the total population of U.S. adults aged 18 or older who have been diagnosed with a heart attack. Weighting was based on age within gender, education, race/ethnicity, region, income and propensity to be online. In theory, with probability samples of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a sampling error of +/- 6.6 percentage points of what they would be if the entire population of U.S. adults aged 18 or older who have been diagnosed with a heart attack had been polled with complete accuracy. Sampling error for the men's (n=342) and women's (n=176) sub-samples is higher and varies. This online sample is not a probability sample.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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