My father had a heart attack when he was forty- five. Twenty years later he had a second heart attack- the one that killed him. Sadly, he was given no lifestyle advice that could have prevented that second and fatal event. My own husband, Sam, had a heart attack- his first- on July 31, 2009, and thankfully he survived with minimal damage to his heart muscle. Fearful that he would suffer my father’s fate, I chose to write this book for him, to help him live a long, healthy and happy life, despite his heart disease diagnosis- to teach him and other heart patients how to prevent that second, lethal attack and even reverse the actual disease process. But perhaps more important, I wanted to give hope to all of those who have suffered through the trauma of a heart attack: to tell them that the ideal heart- healthy diet is not one of deprivation, but rather a deliciously palatable Mediterranean style of living that will enable them to enjoy eating- one of life’s greatest pleasures. Prevent a Second Heart Attack does just that.
If you are reading this book, chances are that you or a loved one has had a heart attack. Having a heart attack used to be a death sentence. Today that is no longer the case. But this book is not just about helping you prevent a repeat attack; it is also about how to live well with heart disease. A heart disease diagnosis doesn’t mean that you have to give up all that you enjoy in life. Most heart patients can lead happy, healthy lives- without the hardship of following a tasteless, low- fat, or highly restrictive diet. Advances in medical research and technology have proven that there is a much better way for heart attack survivors to prevent new plaque buildup and stabilize and even reverse dangerous, vulnerable plaque in their coronary arteries and the new way is a delightful, appetizing diet and lifestyle plan. The Prevent a Second Heart Attack plan is not a bland, low- fat diet, but rather a simple and delicious Mediterranean- style eating strategy based on clinically tested research that proves that this method can cut the risk of a second heart attack by up to 70 percent!
As a registered dietitian specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention, I have found a great need among heart attack survivors that is not being met. These are the people who are the most receptive to making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of a second heart attack. Having a brush with death bestows powerful motivation to do what it takes to live- and hopefully to prevent that second and potentially fatal cardiac event. Yet the lifestyle message is not getting through to some of these individuals.
Unfortunately, many heart attack survivors are not receiving preventive lifestyle advice from their cardiologists. After enduring severe physical, psychological, and emotional duress, some patients are handed difficult and perplexing dietary guidelines for heart-healthy eating. Others are given no lifestyle advice at all. Cardiologists often do not have the time to advise their patients, and patients may not want to pay the additional cost for counseling from registered dietitians, which often is not covered by their insurance.
Despite being highly motivated to change their lifestyle, the large majority (some 80 percent) of patients with heart disease fail to adhere to dietary advice one year after their diagnosis. Why? When asked, patients cite confusion as the main reason for their lack of compliance. Furthermore, these same researchers have shown that “keeping the message simple is the key to improving dietary advice to patients.” This valuable research pinpoints where most post-heart attack patients go wrong in their eating regimen: Many avoid carbs and thus get little heart- healthy fiber; most consume excessive amounts of harmful sodium and trans fats; and few get in the disease- reversing, phytonutrient- rich vegetables and fruits that are key to preventing a second heart attack. Patients want to comply, but they need clear, doable options if they are to change their diet and prevent their disease from progressing. Prevent a Second Heart Attack does just that- and goes a step further, offering straightforward lifestyle advice that is scientifically proven to prevent a second heart attack and reverse the disease process.
As many as half a million Americans will die of heart disease this year, making coronary heart disease the single largest killer of men and women in the United States. What has the scientific community provided us in terms of proven steps to help reverse this situation?
Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that more that 80 percent of heart attacks can be prevented in both women and men through lifestyle factors. This is as true for individuals who have never had a diagnosis of heart disease as for those who have already had a heart attack. The latest research shows that post-heart attack patients should follow this general lifestyle advice:
1. Eat a heart- healthy diet.
2. Practice healthful stress management.
3. Be physically active.
4. Don’t smoke.
5. Achieve a healthy weight.
6. Take medications.
What, then, are the best diet and exercise changes- when partnered with doctor- prescribed drugs- that this population should make to prevent repeat attacks? This is the very question that this book will answer. There is a tremendous amount of scientific research to draw from, and the research shows that my simplified Mediterranean lifestyle (diet, exercise, and stress management) is the optimal lifestyle plan for preventing a second heart attack, halting heart disease, and even promoting regression. In fact, the famed Lyon Heart Study tested a Cretan Mediterranean diet in cardiac patients and proved in its clinical research that this lifestyle cuts the risk of a second attack by a phenomenal 50 to 70 percent when compared to heart patients following a typical low- fat American Heart Association-style diet. The scientific evidence is crystal clear: This lifestyle prescription is far superior to the low- fat regimens typically prescribed to heart patients in the fat- phobic 1990s (regimens that continue to fill the heart disease section of bookstore shelves).
Prevent a Second Heart Attack crystallizes what researchers have termed the gold standard for cardiovascular disease prevention- the Mediterranean diet- into a simple, accessible nutrition plan for heart disease reversal. It explains how eight specific foods (including olive oil and omega- 3- rich fish such as salmon), when eaten in combination, have spectacular heart benefits- such as preventing plaque buildup and even stabilizing or reversing plaque in the coronary arteries- with scientific support explaining why.
Several heart disease reversal books currently available in bookstores advocate spartan, vegan- style plans that are either too difficult to follow or just not livable. (One recommends twenty different supplements in addition to diet, several of which have been proven ineffective in preventing cardiovascular disease!) General heart disease prevention books offer volumes of information about the primary prevention of heart disease, and some offer general concepts for reversing heart disease, but none specifically targets the second heart attack, until now.
Within these pages, you will find a simple, easy- to- follow lifestyle (diet and exercise) plan designed to help heart attack survivors achieve longer and fuller lives. There are three main parts to this book:
Part I (Chapters 1-3) provides an in- depth scientific background and is useful for those individuals seeking to understand the nuts and bolts of their disease and the logic behind the preventive steps in Prevent a Second Heart Attack. For example, Chapter 2 addresses the science of atherosclerosis- the underlying cause of heart attacks- and translates the often confusing science into clear and understandable language. However, if this section is too scientific for your taste, feel free to skip ahead to the diet section and start today to protect yourself against a second heart attack.
Part II (Chapters 4-14) is the diet and exercise lifestyle section. This part of the book includes step- by- step guidelines for eating the highly palatable Mediterranean way, including food prescriptions (eight daily and weekly food groups) and an exercise plan, as well as the most recent scientific rationale supporting the recommendations.
Part III includes fourteen days of meal plans accompanied by more than fifty Mediterranean- inspired recipes, many contributed by top chefs. These recipes are easy to cook, delicious, and healthy, and include nutritional analyses. In addition, the Appendix contains a helpful lifestyle prescription daily checklist, which is an extremely valuable tool that will help you stick to the plan.
For the millions of Americans living with heart disease, Prevent a Second Heart Attack presents a tasty, easy- to- follow set of lifestyle guidelines based on the phenomenally heart- healthy and delicious Mediterranean style of eating. Holding this book in your hands, mind, and heart not only leads to huge health gains; it could potentially save your life. Read on, and start today maximizing your defenses against that second heart attack- while learning to slow down, enjoy food, and live a longer, healthier life. À votre santé!