Ischaemic heart disease

4 good and 4 bad trends among Australian heart attacks survivors

Australians who survive a heart attack are now more likely to make better lifestyle modifications, but problem areas remain, a Heart Foundation survey shows.

While myocardial infarction patients are now more likely to take part in cardiac rehabilitation, a high proportion are still not returning to normal physical activity and some continue to smoke, according to the Foundation’s 2018 Heart Attack Survivors Survey.

Responses from 402 people who survived a heart attack revealed that:

  • In 2018, 57% had attended a cardiac rehabilitation program compared to about 40% in the 2016 survey.
  • Two in five survivors were told by medical staff to attend a cardiac rehab program, a significant increase over the last two years.
  • Those who took part in cardiac rehab said it helped them make healthy lifestyle changes (58%), understand and manage their condition (50%) and reduced their anxiety and depression (32%).
  • Two-thirds of survivors who were able to resume daily activities did so within three months.

However, on the downside:

  • In 2018, 15% of heart attack survivors said they were not able to resume physical activity at all due to their condition, and 39% had not returned to pre-heart attack levels of exercise.
  • One in four (25%) of heart attack survivors had not returned to work at all, and 24% were unable to get back to the same level of work they were at before their heart attack.
  • Half of smokers continued to smoke after their heart attack, with one in six not even attempting to quit.
  • One in six survivors were not taking their medications as recommended and a quarter were not regularly monitoring their cholesterol or blood pressure levels.

Heart Foundation General Manager of Heart Health Bill Stavreski said the snapshot provided encouraging findings on cardiac rehabilitation participation, but there was some way to go in physical activity and returning to work.

“We advise people that they should be able to return to their usual activities a few weeks after a heart attack, but the survey tells us that a significant number of people still find it difficult doing basic activities months, and even years, after their heart attack,” he said.

Adjunct Professor John G Kelly, Group CEO, National Heart Foundation of Australia, said cardiac rehab was a critical step in a patient’s journey to better health after a heart attack, with people 40% less likely to be readmitted to hospital and 25% less likely to die from another heart attack if they have taken part in a cardiac rehab program.

“We would ask that medical professionals make a promise to encourage more heart attack survivors to take on cardiac rehab, and that survivors promise themselves they will complete it,” he said.

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