Heart Attack Survival Guide

Health Alert 38

Heart attack! The term is so frightening most of us prefer not to think about it. And of course, prevention is the best strategy. But what do you do if you’ve already had a heart attack?

My old college friend, Roland, recently had a heart attack. There are some very important lessons you can learn from his story.

Roy was in that lucky 50% of first time heart attack sufferers who survived. It turns out, that was just the beginning of his suffering. He’s been in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices ever since.

* When the “Cure” Is Worse than the Disease *

The heart attack scared Roy into action. He said, “I realized I had to make some changes”. He decided to follow all of his doctors recommendations. Unfortunately, the recommendations were all drugs.

Cardiologists universally tell all their heart attack patients to take drugs. Studies show that drugs reduce the risk of repeat heart attacks. But the drugs usually make the patient feel worse. Their side effects often interfere with rehabilitation. And drugs are not the only way to lower risk.

His cardiologist first gave him a Nitro patch. It made him “feel tired with a low grade headache all the time”.

He was also given two blood pressure drugs, Altace and Lopressor. Despite the drugs, his blood pressure remained high at 180/100. Lopressor made him tired with intermittent impotence. He said, “I never knew when it would hit me.”

Roy had a cholesterol level of 219, with an HDL (good cholesterol) of 80. He was told to take Lipitor. Lipitor is a “statin” drug for lowering cholesterol. Although his total cholesterol went down with the drug, his HDL went down even more. This actually increased his risk ratio.

Then he began having terrible pain in his back and legs. He told me, “I would wake up aching. I hurt like an 80-year-old man. I thought if this is what it’s like to survive a heart attack, it’s not worth it.” (As it turned out, the reason Roy was so miserable wasn’t the heart attack. It was the drugs.)

That’s when a mutual friend called me and said “Al you have to do something for Roy. He told me he is thinking about suicide.”

* My Prescription for Roy *

I saw Roy and immediately began to work on eliminating his drug therapy.

I’ve talked about my disdain of statin cholesterol drugs in numerous past Health Alerts. The first drug to go was the cholesterol drug, Lipitor. This was the cause of Roy’s back and leg pains. The pain ceased within days of stopping the drug.

Roy has been able to control his cholesterol with diet and exercise and the natural supplement Policosanol. He takes 20 mg once a day with no side effects.

The beta-blocker Lopressor was the next to go. It was responsible for Roy’s constant fatigue. It had also made it impossible for Roy to exercise. A program of controlled exercise is crucial in rehabilitating an injured heart.

Roy has succeeded in lowering his blood pressure with exercise, dietary changes and Coenzyme Q 10. He takes 100 mg twice a day. He also believes that the Co Q10 has helped restore his energy level.

Most importantly, Roy has exercised in a regular progressive program advancing slowly as the exercise gets easier. At the time of his heart attack, he weighed 235 with 30% body fat. Today his weight is down to 205 and his body fat is at 20% and still dropping. His goal is a weight of 185 with 16% body fat.

* What You Can Learn From Roland’s Heart Attack *

How’s his heart doing? Roy’s original stress test was markedly abnormal after the heart attack. A second stress test done 3 months later showed marked improvement with damage rated as mild. A third stress test done recently showed minimal damage. The reporting cardiologist said it was difficult to see any evidence that he had ever had a heart attack.

I asked Roy if he could give advice to a heart attack sufferer, what he would tell him. This is what he said.

“If you have symptoms of a heart attack, get to an ER fast. Make sure they call in an expert. Anything that they can do to help must be done during those first few hours. After that, all the cardiologist is going to do is put you on a lot of drugs. They are very expensive and they make you feel bad.

I spent a lot of money. After two heart surgeries and seeing at least 10 doctors with a total bill of over $100,000, the only thing that helped me was eating right, exercise, weight loss and Coenzyme Q10.”

Of course, you should only discontinue any medication under your doctors supervision. At my clinic, we do it under very careful monitoring.

I have many more patients with similar reactions to cardiac drugs who are now doing well without them. I will share more of their stories in future letters.

Al Sears, MD