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How to reduce your risk of another heart attack

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How to reduce your risk of another heart attack

My 70-year-old husband recently survived a heart attack. He’s taking medication and having cardiac rehab—he’s already quit smoking and is working on his weight—but I was wondering if there is anything else he can do to reduce his risk of having another heart attack?

J.B., via email 

According to the American Heart Association, about one in five people who’ve had a heart attack will be readmitted to a hospital for a second attack within five years.1 But there’s plenty your husband can do to lower his risk. Just make sure to consult with a qualified health practitioner first, especially when it comes to taking supplements and herbs. 

Eat a Mediterranean diet

Rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and olive oil, a Mediterranean diet has been consistently linked to better heart health.2 In one study of heart attack survivors, eating a Mediterranean diet dramatically reduced the risk of suffering another heart attack as well as other cardiovascular events or death.3

Enjoy chocolate

If you’ve had a heart attack, there’s no need to give up chocolate, it seems. A little bit of chocolate every week could actually cut your risk of dying from heart disease.4 According to a review of 14 studies, 100 g per week is the sweet spot for cardioprotective effects.5 But go for dark chocolate over milk or white—it’s richest in heart-healthy flavonols.6

Don’t worry, be happy

Worrying has been linked to heart disease and could more than double your risk of a heart attack.7 Feelings of anger and hostility may also promote heart attacks.8

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or ‘tapping,’ is one way to help deal with negative emotions and boost mental wellbeing. One study reported reductions in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as increased ratings of happiness after participants took part in a four-day EFT workshop.9 To find out more about EFT and how to access free tapping meditations, visit



Taking this amino acid appears to increase the chances of surviving a heart attack.10 And in one study of patients who’d already had a heart attack, those who supplemented with 

L-carnitine alongside their standard medication had a significantly lower chance of death over the next year compared to those given a placebo (1.2 percent vs 12.5 percent).

Suggested dosage: 2 g/day

Fish oil

Taking fish oil, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, after a heart attack appears to protect against suffering another heart attack. In the same study, mustard oil, also rich in omega-3s, had similar effects, although only the fish oil reduced the risk of fatal heart attacks.11 

In a study of over 11,000 patients who’d recently survived a heart attack, those given omega-3s had a 20 percent reduced risk of death from any cause and a 30 percent reduced risk of heart disease-related death.12

Suggested dosage: Try Wiley’s Finest Peak Omega-3 Liquid, which supplies over 2,000 mg omega-3 per teaspoon

Coenzyme Q10

This vitamin-like antioxidant appears to have rapid healing effects on the heart when given to patients soon after a heart attack. It also seems to reduce the risk of another heart attack – fatal or nonfatal.13

Suggested dosage: 120 mg/day

Antioxidant vitamins

Like coenzyme Q10, vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene—all potent antioxidants—appear to reduce the damage caused by a heart attack and may help prevent future heart problems.14

Suggested dosage: 50,000 IU/day vitamin A, 1,000 mg/day vitamin C, 400 mg/day vitamin E and 25 mg/day beta-carotene

B vitamins

High levels of the amino acid homocysteine and low levels of vitamins B6, B9 (folate) and B12 have been linked to a raised risk of heart attack.15 And supplementing with B6, B9 and B12 can lower homocysteine.16 

Vitamin B1 may also be useful. Taken after a heart attack, it can improve ventricular (pumping) function.17

Suggested dosage: Choose a high-quality B complex supplement containing the active forms of the vitamins, such as Thorne Basic B Complex

Get connected

Social isolation and loneliness have been linked to heart disease, heart attacks and death.18 So get together with friends and family when you can or join a local community group to keep connected with others.

Have a little drink

You may be wondering if you should avoid alcohol if you’ve had a heart attack. According to a new study, the answer is no; a little bit every day may actually reduce your chance of having another heart attack. After analyzing data from more than 14,000 people who’d suffered a heart attack, angina or a stroke, researchers found that drinking up to 105 g a week reduced the risk of death and cardiovascular events compared to not drinking alcohol. Those drinking
8 g of alcohol a day—equivalent to one unit, or a small glass of wine—enjoyed the greatest protection.

But your individual circumstances are also important to consider before pouring that glass of wine. Alcohol may not be suitable with certain medications, for example, or if you have a history of cancer or are trying to lose weight. And if you don’t drink, it’s probably not a good idea to start—there are lots of other ways to protect your heart.


Chronic stress is thought to play a role in heart disease and heart-related deaths,21 so consider stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga and qigong.

Try herbs

Herbalist Meilyr James, owner of the Herbal Clinic in Swansea, Wales (, recommends the herb Crataegus oxyacanthoides (hawthorn) for heart health. “It can regulate heart rhythm, increase oxygen to the heart by dilating the coronary vessels, stabilize the collagen within the vessels and help to control high blood pressure,” he says. 

How to take: Use a 1:3 tincture of the berries and take 20 drops in a little water, three times daily.


Moderate exercise is known to help prevent and treat heart disease, and it appears to be safe and beneficial even after a heart attack.22 Just make sure to consult a healthcare professional (who can ideally devise a personalized exercise plan for you) before embarking on an exercise regime and avoid heavy physical activity. 

Develop a sense of purpose

People with a strong sense of purpose in life have a significantly reduced risk of death from all causes and of cardiovascular events such as heart attack, research suggests.19 If you feel your life lacks a sense of meaning and direction, take some time to work out your passions and what drives you. Simply volunteering or getting a pet may help bring a sense of purpose to your life.




American Heart Association News, Apr 4, 2019. “Proactive steps can reduce chances of second heart attack.”


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Heart, 2019; 105: 49–55


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Article Topics: Omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin
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