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Listen to Your Heart:

Creating Your Lifelong Personal Heart Care Program

Posted: January 27, 2006

Respected cardiologist Barry Zaret, MD, has written a vital new book that urges heart disease patients to empower themselves. Just in time for National Heart Month, he offers six tips for taking control of your own health.

New Haven, CT -- No two hearts are exactly alike. No two cases of heart disease are exactly alike. And certainly, no two people who suffer from it are alike, nor are their lifestyles. Many heart patients--a marathon runner in her 30s, an overweight middle-aged bus driver who smokes heavily, a relatively "healthy" 85-year-old retiree--bear almost no resemblance to each other. So why do so many of us, lay people and sometimes even healthcare professionals, talk about "heart disease" like it's a single entity?

That's a question Barry L. Zaret, MD, eminent cardiologist and co-author (along with Genell Subak-Sharpe) of Heart Care for Life: Developing the Program That Works Best for You (Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN: 0-300-10869-9, $26.00), wants us all to ponder this National Heart Month.

"Every case of heart disease is like a snowflake or a fingerprint," he says. "You just won't find two exactly alike. So it follows that no two treatment regimens are going to be exactly identical. What does this mean for heart patients? I think the most important point is this: you know you better than anyone else, including the most gifted, insightful physician in the world.

So you need to take a critical role in the design of your own lifelong program of care."

That is the main point of Zaret's groundbreaking book: patient empowerment. Heart Care for Life--which is filled with practical advice, instructional case histories, questions to ask your doctor, and more--rejects short-term fixes and one-size-fits-all programs and urges patients to take control of their own health. Though certain characteristics are common to each form of heart disease and its treatments, these constants must be tempered against individual variables.

Here are a few of Zaret's insights:

Besides the fact that helping shape your own heart health plan is far more effective than being a passive recipient of "doctor's orders," it gives you a sense of control. And that, says Zaret, may make all the difference in your prognosis.


"Having no control over your own destiny is a recipe for depression and hopelessness," says Zaret. "If you don't emotionally 'buy into' your lifelong program, you almost certainly won't stick with it. And if you somehow manage to force your life into someone else's mold, you'll find the experience exhausting and joyless.

"That's why we wrote Heart Care for Life," he adds. "We want people to know that having heart disease does not mean letting the condition define or defeat you. Work with your doctor to make decisions that feel right to you and you can stride toward a healthier future with a sense of accomplishment, power, and--most important of all--hope."

About the Authors:

Barry L. Zaret, M.D.

Barry L. Zaret, M.D., is the Robert W. Berliner Professor of Medicine and professor of radiology, Yale University School of Medicine. Dr. Zaret served as chief of the section of cardiology at Yale from 1978-2004 and has been a pioneer in developing the field of noninvasive diagnosis in cardiovascular disease, with an emphasis on nuclear cardiology. Dr. Zaret has produced or collaborated on more than forty books in health and medicine including:

Genell Subak-Sharpe, M.S., is president of G.S. Sharpe Communications, Inc.

About the Book:

Heart Care for Life: Developing the Program That Works Best for You, By Barry L. Zaret, MD, and Genell Subak-Sharpe, MS. To be published in February 2006 By Yale University Press.

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