Dr. Campbell: Study suggests heart attack patients forget to take meds

Dr. Kevin Campbell

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Many patients who survive a heart attack don’t consistently take medications prescribed to prevent a second heart attack, a large U.S. study suggests.

Researchers asked 7,425 patients how often they took all the drugs physicians prescribed shortly after their heart attack and about 2,150 of them confessed to following doctors’ orders only some of the time.

Heart attacks are serious. A heart attack occurs when the blood vessels that supply your heart muscle become suddenly totally occluded or blocked.

The heart muscle cells no longer receive oxygen and nutrients and quickly die. If you do not restore blood flow to the area that is blocked, death can occur quickly.

Heart blood vessels are called coronary arteries and can develop fatty plaques inside over time—when these plaques rupture, a heart attack occurs. The key to heart attack treatment is to quickly open the artery and restore blood flow. Post-heart attack care is focused on preventing future events.

Researchers reviewed drug compliance for heart attack patients treated at 216 U.S. hospitals between April 2010 and May 2012.

During their hospital stay, all of the patients had stents placed to open blocked arteries and were prescribed important meds to keep the stents open.

Six weeks after their heart attack only, 71 percent of study participants said they consistently took their medications as prescribed. But 25 percent said they did so only occasionally, and another 4 percent said they used medications rarely.

Among the people least likely to take their medicine, most cited forgetfulness and about 20 percent said they didn’t tell their doctor when they stopped taking drugs due to side effects.

Some drugs are very important after a heart attack. Particularly those that are used to keep new blood vessels open after having a stent placed. If you stop these drugs, your blood vessel could block up quickly and you could have another life threatening heart attack. In addition, other drugs have been shown to prevent future heart events and are associated with lower risk of death—it is important to take all of these meds after having a heart attack.

It is essential to partner with your doctor after a heart attack and understand exactly why you take each pill. Understanding why and what each pill is for is likely to increase compliance with medication and improve outcomes.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

Copyright 2015 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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