Heart Attack Myth #3 – Heart Attacks Are No Big Deal Anymore Because Most People Survive Them.
Recent high-profile heart attack success stories such as Writer/Director Kevin Smith’s (@ThatKevinSmith) survival of a STEMI LAD heart attack (Widowmaker) and several recent studies showing that a greater percentage of heart attack victims are surviving due to advances in treatment; does not lessen the significance of experiencing a heart attack.
MYTH – I had a minor heart attack.
TRUTH – THERE ARE NO MINOR HEART ATTACKS!
The survival rate for STEMI (ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction) heart attacks is still around 10%. A STEMI heart attack is any heart attack (infarction) where there is a 100% blockage of a coronary vessel (artery). STEMI heart attacks produce cellular death of heart tissue; tissue that cannot regenerate. This means that even if you survive the initial event you will (in great probability) be living with a permanently damaged heart.
This means that depending on the amount/severity of the damage and if the damaged area includes any of the heart’s electrical nodes (which regulate your heart beat); you could be facing permanent disability with a greatly restricted lifestyle.
A non-ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) is a heart attack that is caused by a partial blockage of a coronary vessel – one which reduces blood flow enough to cause heart tissue damage. Although these heart attacks are survived in much greater numbers, the end result is still a damaged heart and a potential loss in one’s ability to live a normal life.
The most recent statistics from the American Heart Association show that over 800,000 people will die from CAD and CAD related conditions this year. That’s one every 40 seconds – or 1 out of every 3 deaths total.
Heart disease kills more people than cancer, car accidents, and gun deaths combined (Sources – WHO (World Health Organization) & CDC (Centers for Disease Control) – USA Statistics for 2017.
- Death by CAD – 2,200 per day
- Death by Cancer – 1,644 per day
- Death from Auto Accidents – 102 per day
- Death from guns – 96 per day
Daily deaths from CAD = approximately 2,200. Deaths from cancer, auto accidents and gun deaths = 1,842.
The VAST MAJORITY of people who experience a heart attack and survive will have a diminished quality of life and a shorter life expectancy. The average survival rate for a heart disease patient post heart attack varied between 5.4% and 8.3% for a 17 year period in a study conducted with 146,743 patients in the USA. Ethnicity and sex were major factors in the discrepancy between survival rates with women (6.7%) and minorities (5.4%) experiencing lower survival rates than Caucasian males (8.3%).
This study did not address the quality of life changes that these populations experienced as a result of their heart disease.
I cannot reiterate how lucky I am. Without knowing what I was doing, I made life choices which directly led to my survival and full recovery from a STEMI heart attack. When I say full recovery I want to be clear – I have a stent in my heart and I have to take medication every day (and I will for the rest of my life). Where I am “fully recovered” is that my heart didn’t have permanent damage and I have no restrictions on how I live my life. Well, other than having to make accommodations for taking daily medication and being aware that I have a small piece of platinum that is now a permanent part of my heart.
Kevin Smith was also lucky. He is one of the 10% of widowmaker survivors that has been given a 2nd chance to change his lifestyle and live a healthier life. But that doesn’t mean that he’s going to make a full recovery. He is now facing (like myself) a new set of projections for life expectancy and quality of life that are pretty grim.
Do not be like us. Be smarter. Be much smarter.