Jan 30, 2014 — Once a heart is broken, it can be fixed - if you do the right things. Dr. John Ryan explains how to heal your heart if you’ve ever suffered from a major heart ailment. Discover how big of a deal diet is and why coronary artery disease is more prevalent in the U.S. than many other places in the world. Of course, prevention is always the best medicine, so even if you have a healthy heart, you’ll find out how to ensure you keep it healthy.


Host: We've all heard the song "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" But we're going to find out if it's possible coming up next on The Scope.
Medical news and research from University Utah physicians and specialists you can use, for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.
Can you mend a broken heart? We're with Dr. John Ryan, Director of the Dyspnea Clinic at the University of Utah. I'm talking about, not necessarily a heart that's been broken by love but a heart that has failed in some way, shape, or form, maybe somebody had a heart attack. Is that fixable, is that mendable, can that muscle get stronger?

Dr. John Ryan: So damaged cardiac muscle is fixable, in terms of taking medicine. However, as I tell my patients, medicines are often the second line agent they're not the first line agents. The first line agents to mend a broken heart and to treat cardiac disease are to improve diet, increase the amount of fish consumption, increase the amount of nuts, decrease the amount of fatty foods, decrease the amount of red meat, and also to exercise. When we say exercising, the recommendations are to do that 30 minutes probably everyday, but in reality at least 5 days a week.
The 30 minutes that you do 5 days a week, first of all, it doesn't need to be a contiguous 30 minutes, it can be separated into different 10-minute sessions for three 10-minute sessions. It really has to be on top for what you're already doing for your work. Often times people say, "Well, I'm up and down stairs all day at work," but this is really additive on top of what you're already doing. Those are the two main things and then the medicines that we add on are complimentary to the fact that you're improving your diet and doing the exercise.

Host: Are there situations where you cannot actually restrengthen that heart?

Dr. John Ryan: Unfortunately there are some circumstances where you do a lot of medicines, people do their exercises, people change their diet, and the pump function of their heart doesn't improve. That's not really to say the medicines haven't worked, because if you hadn't taken the medicines, and you hadn't done the exercises, the heart function would have gotten even worse.

Host: Okay.

Dr. John Ryan: In those circumstances these are patients who often times need to be managed for advanced options, and those advanced options include placing a pump in the heart or potentially doing a heart transplant. Most people if they take their medicines, and if they engage in cardiac rehab, will do very well, but I think it's important to remember that the people that don't respond are the outliers, but there are still options for them.

Host: Of course probably the best option is to try and prevent that. Do diet and exercise really make that big of a difference? Because when I'm looking at that food that I really want to eat sometimes, you know, I'm like, "Is this really going to make that big of a difference?"

Dr. John Ryan: I often tell people that coronary heart disease is a side effect of living in North America. It is a consequence of living in the United States. It is not a normal disease process, it is not a normal aspect of aging. The diet that we have in North America and in the Western World, is a very fat heavy, corn heavy diet. You see in areas of the world where there is more of an emphasis on fish, and there is more of an emphasis on nuts, that there is a less likelihood of having cardiovascular disease, and having heart attacks, strokes, and early mortality. The major difference is the fact that the diets are more geared towards increasing fish consumption, increasing nut consumption. They don't have the Big Gulps that we have in this country.

Host: Sure. Or the big steaks.

Dr. John Ryan: Or the Big Macs or the big steaks. Obviously you've got to be reasonable as well. Many people like to have a steak once a month, or have a hamburger a couple of times a year, and that's probably okay. The frequent consumption of high fat, high carbohydrate, high starch content, that ultimately has led to serious consequences on our cardiovascular health. So yes, diet does make a huge difference in terms of heart disease.

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