Help for Wounded Hearts

If you’ve already had one heart attack, there’s a good chance that you’ll eventually have a second that might kill you. Unless you get aggressive.

First, talk with your doctor about whether prescription drugs such as the statins or niacin, over-the-counter cholesterol-lowering drugs, and surgical intervention are options. The truth is that if you’ve had one artery blocked during a heart attack, your others are ready to follow suit.

Follow the Duke 24-Day Program. The diet, exercise, and mind/body tips can reduce your risk of a first heart attack-or a subsequent attack if you’ve already had one. So putting this program into operation-under your doctor’s supervision-is a top priority.

Consider complementary medicine. If you are considering adding any of the supplements or strategies listed below to your treatment, work with your doctor to tailor them to meet your personal, stop-a-heart-attack needs. Keep in mind that these strategies are not a substitute for traditional medical treatment, but rather should be used in conjunction with it.

Open your heart with arginine. Arginine is a naturally occurring substance that dilates your arteries. It may be helpful for angina or congestive heart failure. In a study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, researchers found that those who took arginine dramatically increased bloodflow to the heart. Take 1 gram (g), three times a day. If that sounds like a lot, rest easy: New food supplements containing extra arginine are on the horizon.

Rejuvenate your heart with carnitine. Researchers in the Netherlands have found that carnitine improves heart function and significantly reduces angina, while researchers in Italy have found that those who take it are 12 times less likely to die than those who don’t. Take 1 g, twice a day.

Power up with coenzyme Q10. One study found that 150 milligrams (mg) per day protected some people with congestive heart failure. Those using that amount were hospitalized 38% less than people on a placebo. A preliminary study in India found that those who supplemented their diet with coenzyme Q10 immediately after a heart attack improved their heart’s ability to pump, cut angina and the incidence of irregular heart rhythm by two-thirds, and slashed their risk of death in half. Take 50 mg, three times a day.

Try fish oil. Besides eating more fatty fish such as salmon, those with heart disease should also talk with their doctor about taking fish oil, available at your local drugstore in capsules. In the recent Italian study, heart attack victims reduced their risk of a second attack by 45% if they took 1 g of fish oil a day.

Use acupuncture to reduce pain. There’s some evidence that acupuncture and shiatsu, a massage performed along acupuncture points, can reduce angina pain as effectively as surgical procedures when used in combination with a low-fat diet and regular exercise.

Deal with depression. Studies show that 97% of those who have had a heart attack make it to the 1-year mark, but only 92% make it if they’re depressed. So call your doctor at the first hint of the blues. Don’t try to tough them out.

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