Medication is Key in Recovering from a Heart Attack

Posted by Bianca Doran on February 03, 2016

Medication is Key in Recovering from a Heart Attack

"Listen to your doctor" is one of the golden rules we were taught growing up. It seems simple enough, but did you know that many patients skip their prescriptions? A new study found this to be particularly true regarding patients surviving a heart attack. The dangers in skipping medication after a heart attack can result in poor outcomes, including hospitalization, progression of the disease and even negatively affecting survival rate. The takeaway message may be that medication is key in recovering from a heart attack.

Forgetfulness, Side-Effects & Expense

The researchers of the study focused their attention on 7,425 patients who unfortunately experienced a heart attack. The team asked the patients how often they took their medication the physicians prescribed. Of this group, 2,150 patients admitted to only taking their prescriptions some of the time.

There are a variety of reasons why patients may not choose to listen to their doctor when it comes to their medicine, says Dr. Robin Matthews, lead author of the study and researcher at Duke University Medical Center. These reasons can range anywhere from not fully understanding the importance of the medicine and how they play a role in future prevention to fearing the side effects or expense of the medication.

Matthews and his team reviewed 216 patients between April 2010 and May 2012 and followed up with their prescription intake six weeks after their episodes. 71% of the participants consistently took their medicine; however, 25% admitted occasionally taking their prescriptions and 4% admitted rarely taking their prescription.

Those who were least likely to listen to their doctor admitted their forgetfulness while 20% admitted to fear of side effects. Although there is not enough research to define a direct cause and effect relationship, those who were least compliant were more likely to be back in the hospital or even die, two months after their heart attack. It is also important to note, however, that the team only checked medication observance at one point in time and relied on the patients to answer truthfully.

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Surviving a Heart Attack

The experience of surviving a heart attack can be very difficult. Below are some reasons that patients might not be taking their medication:

  • The conversation between the doctor and the patient on their medication happens after the patient’s episode, and may become diluted with all the other issues and stress factors happening.
  • Limited insurance coverage and high co-payments can turn off patients on a budget from refilling their prescription.
  • The patients may be depressed or stressed from the heart attack, and having to take medication might serve as reminders of the heart attack and traumatic experience. The very medicine that might save their life becomes a depressing reminder.

If you or your loved one experienced a heart attack, it is essential to ask the question, “Why do I need this medicine, and what will happen if I do not take it?” Have yourself or your loved one understand the importance of medication, post-heart attack, to keep yourself out of the hospital and on the road of recovery.


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