The Simple 7

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You can't control genetics.  But you can control a short list of risk factors that can greatly reduce your chance of having a heart attack.  That list is called The Simple 7.

66-year-old John Hoffman of Benton always had heart problems.  Months of small pains here and there didn't clue him in that he was in trouble.  But then, last fall, came the heart attack.

"I thought if I laid down it (the pain) would ease.  But it got worse.  It went away after a while, so I went downstairs and it whacked me again, this time it put me down, you know," said Hoffman.

He had 90% blockage in one of his arteries, but admits he didn't have very healthy habits.  He says he didn't eat well, has diabetes, and, for 45 years, smoked three packs of cigarettes per day.

"They've added years to my life here at this place.  I don't think I would have made it till summer," Hoffman says.

But doctors at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville give the credit to the changes John has made.  The Simple 7 is a list of heart health factors compiled by the American Heart Association:

  1. Get active
  2. Control cholesterol
  3. Eat better
  4. Manage blood pressure
  5. Lose weight
  6. Reduce blood sugar
  7. Stop smoking

Dr. Sanjay Doddamani is System Director of Advanced Cardiac Disease and Heart Failure at GHS, and also John's doctor.

"He is a wonderful patient who, once his heart attack was treated, made it his mission to reduce his risk factors," said Dr. Doddamani.

He says paying attention to the Simple 7 will greatly increase your chances of having a healthy heart.  He also has a message for women in particular, whose symptoms aren't always the classic pain and tightness men often feel during a heart attack.

"Women may just get queasy, or feel short of breath or feel an uneasiness," he points out.