How to Boost the Odds of Survival After a Heart Attack

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Technically referred to as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack occurs when the complete blockage of a coronary artery interrupts blood flow to a portion of the heart muscle, causing death of heart tissue. Each year, about 605,000 Americans have a first heart attack, and 200,000 have a repeat attack. According to a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, following medical guidance after a heart attack increases the odds of long-term survival.

The study’s authors looked at data from more than 25,000 people (average age 68) who had heart attacks between 2008 and 2014. Those who were adhering to all or most guideline-based recommendations 90 days after their heart attack were 43 percent and 31 percent less likely to die over the next three years, respectively, than those who adhered to three or fewer recommendations. For each additional recommendation followed, the mortality risk dropped by 8 to 11 percent.

The recommendations were use of four types of medications (beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors or similar medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and antiplatelet agents); achieving healthy levels of blood pressure and cholesterol; and, of course, not smoking. The benefits of quitting are clear, and research indicates that it’s never too late to try—even if you’ve been hospitalized for a heart attack.