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Heart Attacks Often a 'Wake-Up Call'

Many Heart Attack Survivors Upgrade Health Habits, Feel Emotional Toll
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 9, 2005 -- Most heart attack survivors consider their heart attacks a "wake-up call," a new poll shows.

In the poll, heart attack survivors mention new priorities, better health habits, and strong emotions including depression, which has been shown to be dangerous for heart attack survivors.

In addition, 40% admitted that they weren't doing everything they could to prevent another heart attack.

About the Poll

The online poll was conducted in October by Harris Interactive for Mended Hearts, a nationwide support group for heart patients.

The poll was taken by 518 heart attack survivors. They answered questions about life after a heart attack.

Most participants were men, whites, and patients who had had one heart attack. On average, they were in their early- to mid-60s.

Second Chance at Life

Most survivors indicated that their heart attacks had deeply affected them:

  • 90% called their heart attack a "wake-up call" that made them face their own mortality.
  • Nearly 80% noted that their heart attack had affected them emotionally.
  • 85% reported feeling that they had gotten a second chance at life.

Many reported making changes in their personal lives:

  • More than half (55%) mentioned re-evaluating their priorities.
  • Half mentioned spending more time with family and friends.
  • About a third reported doing things they had put off in the past.

Healthy habits were also widely noted. For instance, 71% said they ate healthy foods, 67% said they avoided tobacco, and nearly half said they exercised.

Tough Emotions

Mental and emotional challenges were common after heart attacks. Those findings include:

  • More than half -- 60% -- reported feeling depressed after their heart attacks.
  • Around three-quarters voiced concern that they wouldn't be able to do favorite activities.
  • Fear of another heart attack was reported by 63%.

In fact, fear of having another heart attack was the top-ranked fear of survivors. Fear of dying was farther down the list, after fear of sharks, heights, and public speaking.

The poll was funded by drug company GlaxoSmithKline, according to a news release. GlaxoSmithKline is a WebMD sponsor.

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