Heart attack, stroke survivors failing to live healthier: poll
TORONTO—Many Canadians who survive a heart attack or stroke are failing to make healthy changes that reduce the risk of the potentially-catastrophic attacks occurring again, according to a new poll.
The online survey done for the Heart and Stroke Foundation found more than half of respondents who needed to adopt healthier behaviours, such as getting physically active or eating better, couldn’t make the changes stick or didn’t try in the first place.
“The problem is that many of us who are at risk—and people who have had a heart attack are at the greatest risk of recurring heart attacks—are not making the lifestyle changes we need,” said Dr. Beth Abramson, report author and Toronto cardiologist.
“We need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.”
And at the top of the list of reasons why those changes don’t sink in is lacklustre motivation, according to the survey.
A slim majority of those polled said surviving was akin to being given a “second chance” and would improve their health while roughly the same number did report living a “little healthier” after a heart attack or stroke.
Abramson said that while for many the “initial scare” spurs better habits and routines, those healthy behaviours can wane over the long-term as the medical crisis fades from memory.
“People forget about their events,” she noted. “So seven or 10 years later, they might forget why do I take this medication or why is that important because ‘out of sight, out of mind.’”
Abramson called the survey a “wake-up call” for both survivors to be more aware of the importance of healthy living and physicians to better ensure patients with cardiovascular disease make those changes last and not end up back in hospital.
One thing nearly all respondents deemed a big help was support from family and friends.
“When a family is involved, when friends are involved and you have a support network, it’s easier to understand that these changes are a life-long process,” said Abramson.
That emotional boost also can get those who went through cardiac arrest or stroke into rehabilitation, according to the health group.
A minority of patients are referred to such programs, it states, while only 60 percent of those surveyed finished a full course of rehab.