What Are Your Chances of Having a Second Heart Attack?

November 11, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Arthur Okere, M.D. contributes to topics such as Interventional Cardiology.

You’ve recently had a heart attack and are fearful about having a second one. Your fear is valid. About 1 in 5 people who have had a heart attack will be readmitted to the hospital for a second one within five years, according to the American Heart Association. The organization also says that there are about 335,000 recurrent heart attacks each year in the United States.

But you don’t have to become a statistic. You can take steps to avoid a second heart attack, says Arthur Okere, M.D., an interventional cardiology specialist at Bayshore Medical Center and Ocean Medical Center. You have to be proactive, though.

“After the initial heart attack, it’s all about mitigating your risks and changing your habits,” he says.”

Keep up With Medications

First and foremost, Dr. Okere says, take your medication.

“Once we place a stent in your heart after a heart attack, we also put you on medication that not only ensures the longevity of the stent, but also reduces the likelihood of another heart attack happening,” he says.

In addition to possible blood thinners, a beta blocker and aspirin, your doctor may prescribe a high-dose statin.

“Once you have a heart attack, you should be on a statin for life, and it has to be a high-dose, even if you don’t have high cholesterol,” Dr. Okere says.

Continue Seeing Your Doctor

Dr. Okere also recommends continuing to see your doctor regularly to monitor your blood pressure and to discuss any possible symptoms that could signal a recurrence.

Make Some Lifestyle Changes

There are a few lifestyle changes you should make in order to prevent a second heart attack.

First, look at your diet. Sometimes even when we think we’re eating healthy, we’re not, Dr. Okere says. “American diets are often filled with hidden saturated fats and cholesterol,” he says. “And many people tend to over-eat, too.”

Here are his recommended lifestyle changes:

  • Lower your intake of fatty, fried, cholesterol-laden foods
  • Eat smaller portions
  • Quit smoking
  • Control your stress level
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise

“The heart is a muscle, and staying active is essential to keeping it strong and healthy,” Dr. Okere says.

Monitor Other Conditions

If you have other comorbidities, such as diabetes, it’s critical to keep those under control, too. Monitor your blood sugar levels, and keep your blood pressure down.

In his own practice, Dr. Okere says, if heart attack patients are compliant with their medications and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s rare to see a second full-blown heart attack.

“Of course it could happen, but it’s not that common if patients take the right steps to improve their health,” he says.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.