Why Heart and Stroke Patients Aren’t Out of the Woods Yet

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

Do heart disease and stroke survivors change their unhealthy ways? The latest study suggests they don’t.You might think that after suffering from a heart attack or stroke, people would be inclined to exercise or start following a healthy diet. But according to a recent study, that’s not the case.

The study, conducted at McMaster University, looked at the lifestyle habits of a group of patients previously treated for heart disease and stroke.

The study itself was a very large one, and assessed 153,996 adults between the ages of 35 and 70 for six years.

The study wanted to see if people who had been diagnosed with coronary heart disease or stroke would subsequently stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, and adopt a routine of regular physical activity.

When the data was finally analyzed by the researchers, they had 7,519 individuals from the original sample who had been diagnosed with heart disease or experienced a previous stroke event. The researchers probably expected that these people at risk of heart disease or stroke would be willing to adopt a healthy diet, or, at the very least, start exercising. But that’s not what they found.

In fact, only 52% of the current smokers had been able to quit smoking following a major heart or stroke event. The results were worse for exercise levels: only 35% reported having higher levels of physical activity and only 39% reported eating a healthy diet!

These statistics are rather interesting because they are representative of people who were previously diagnosed with very serious, life-threatening disorders—yet they weren’t able to make healthy lifestyle changes. After further analysis of this study, I realized something very interesting that I would like to share with you!

Among the three healthy behaviors that were measured in this study (smoking cessation, healthy diet, and an exercise regimen), only 4% had adopted all of them and 14% had adopted none of them! Another interesting fact which emerged was that men were less likely to adopt healthy lifestyle habits following a serious diagnosis than women.

PLUS: Four challenges that stand in the way of being healthy

My concern here is the fact that so few people were able to change their respective behaviors even after being diagnosed with a serious question. This is a big red flag! What does this tell us about people’s abilities to change their lifestyle when they’re not facing a serious health concern and how can we deal with this very important public health issue?

• Provide people with secondary programs: People who have been diagnosed with a serious health issue such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer should be provided with programs which can change their health behavior.

• Provide health education programs: People who are at increased risk of developing a serious health condition—like heart disease or stroke—should be able to access health promotional programs based upon education, patient engagement, client empowerment, and leadership development to improve health outcomes by practicing prevention.

• Mandatory physical and health education: By providing mandatory programs with an emphasis upon healthy lifestyles, skill acquisition, attitude comprehension, and leadership, we can teach our children to become healthier adults.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Carter, A., “Heart and stroke patients often return to unhealthy lifestyles,” CBC News Website, April 17, 2013; http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/04/17/hamilton-heart-disease-stroke-study.html, last accessed April 23, 2013.
Teo, K., et al., “Prevalence of a Healthy Lifestyle Among Individuals With Cardiovascular Disease in High-, Middle- and Low-Income Countries: The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) Study,” JAMA 2013; 309(15):1613-1621.

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