Saving yourself after a heart attack

I see it in patients at my clinic all the time.

Before a heart attack, they all feel invincible -- and when I try to talk to them about how to prevent a heart attack by working on their weight and diet, they start looking for the exit.

Then it happens.

The heart attack hits -- and now, they're finally ready to have that conversation.

All I can say is better late than never -- because even if you've had a heart attack... even if you've seen your life flash before your eyes in the lights of a speeding ambulance... there's still time to make the changes that'll save your life.

There's no magic formula for how to prevent a heart attack. You have to eat better, lose the fat off your middle and get some more exercise.

Start by avoiding junk foods, especially processed foods, convenience foods and sugars. Limit your red meat, and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you can make those changes -- and, more importantly, stick to them -- your risk of a second heart attack or death from heart-related causes will drop by 30 percent, according to one new study of how to prevent a heart attack.

And if you really commit to those changes and make an extra effort to resist the temptation of even occasional junk food, your risk could plunge by as much as 40 percent, according to the study of more than 4,000 men and women followed before and after their heart attacks.

Of course, a good diet isn't just good for your heart.

The benefits extend from head to toe -- and that's why making those changes will also cause your risk of death from all causes to drop by 24 percent, and by as much as 30 percent of you stick rigidly to a healthy lifestyle, according to the study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Eating well can also reduce fat where you want it least: right in the middle, and a second new study shows just how critical this is in how to prevent a heart attack-- because belly fat may be an even bigger risk factor than BMI for death in heart attack patients.

If you have a big belly for your weight -- no matter what that weight is -- your risk of death within five years of your heart attack jumps by 44 percent.

That's even bigger than the increase in risk that comes with obesity. In fact, people with a BMI higher than 35 -- well past the 30 that marks obesity -- have a 41 percent increase in the risk of death within five years, according to the study presented at ESC Congress 2013.

If you haven't had a heart attack yet, don't wait.

Get started today, because learning how to prevent a heart attack before it happens is even better than avoiding your second -- and the best way to do that is with a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet rich in fresh, natural foods and with no processed junk.

Not only is it a tasty way to live, it's also clinically proven to prevent heart attack and stroke, and you can read more about the science behind it right here.

I know it's not easy. And if you feel you can't do it alone, I'm here to help with a diet and exercise plan custom-designed just for you as well as support every step of the way.

If you're ready to get started, make an appointment to see me here at my clinic just outside San Diego. And if you're not in the area, I'm available for telephone consultation.

Call 855-DOC-MARK for more information or to schedule an appointment.