The shocking way to improve your odds of surviving a heart attack

If you suffer a heart attack, what is one of the best ways to improve your chances of surviving it?

The answer may surprise you. It has nothing to do with drugs, stents, or other procedures.

According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, you actually have a better chance of surviving the heart attack if you don’t see a cardiologist at the hospital. Says a lot about the state of “advanced” medicine in this country, doesn’t it?

According to this eye-opening new study, high-risk heart attack patients are more likely to survive when they are admitted to the hospital during national cardiology meetings. That’s when many cardiologists are away from their regular medical practices — and the heart “doctor is out.”

I imagine cardiologists at these national meetings, sitting around the proverbial campfire (more likely the hotel bar) and swapping ghost stories, fairy tales, and myths about how dietary salt, saturated fats, and cholesterol “cause” heart disease. They spin tall tales about how statin drugs can safely and effectively “protect” all their unsuspecting patients from heart disease. And they boast to one another about how they strapped a dozen wired electrodes to their patients and ran them nearly to death for hours on treadmills. And then congratulate themselves that their patients didn’t actually drop dead of heart attacks, right there on the spot.

But oh — how deluded they are!

Let’s hope the cardiologist is “out”

According to the new study, the death rate was 60 percent among patients who went into cardiac arrest and were admitted to the hospital on a day when cardiologists were away from the hospital. But among patients in acute cardiac arrest who were admitted when cardiologists were on duty in the hospital, the death rate was 70 percent.

The study researchers, using simple subtraction, are impressed that there was a 10 percent reduction in death rates by simply not having a cardiologist around to “help” these heart patients.

But the real figure is actually a 17 percent reduction using the correct method of calculating percentages. (Most doctors, like most professionals today, don’t have to be good at math after they take that pesky calculus class to get into medical school.)

But even 10 percent is a tremendous reduction in deaths for an acute, life-threatening condition. The researchers said this 10 percent reduction is far better than most of the medical interventions typically used to treat heart attacks. And the actual 17 percent reduction is even more impressive.

Internists take a more conservative approach

So why does a patient have a higher chance of surviving a heart attack when the cardiologist is away?

For one, regular internists at hospitals order and perform far fewer invasive, high-risk procedures on the heart attack victims when cardiologists are out of town.

And they’re far more likely to take a conservative “wait and see” approach with these high-risk heart patients. Turns out, this approach may be just what the doctor ordered (or, technically, didn’t order).

On TV, you see many acute care doctors say, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” But it turns out, as this study suggests, the better advice may be, “don’t just do something, stand there.”

A long time ago, Nobel laureate Bernard Lown, M.D., advised “watchful waiting” once patients survive the immediate period after having a heart attack. Sadly, far too many doctors — and especially cardiologists — have lost their ability to watch and wait in today’s day and age. They would do well to remember the words of the 17th century English poet laureate John Milton, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Less intervention benefits patients

We see more and more evidence that less medical intervention overall is better for the patient.

In fact, as I reported last year, a Canadian health study compared health outcomes in urban and rural areas. In that study, researchers found that rural patients, who made fewer visits to a cardiologist, did not increase the risk of adverse heart outcomes. In fact, avoiding hospitals, cardiologists, and risky, high-tech mainstream treatments may be among the best things you can do for your heart, and your health.

You should also naturally support your heart health by taking a high-quality B vitamin complex, vitamins D and E, magnesium, selenium, CoQ10, and fish oil. There are also a number of herbs that are very active for heart health as well. I am looking into all the new research on phytonutrients for heart health and will be reporting the results in a forthcoming issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter. (So if you’re not already a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started to make sure you don’t miss this important information.)


  1. “Mortality and Treatment Patterns Among Patients Hospitalized With Acute Cardiovascular Conditions During Dates of National Cardiology Meetings,” JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(2):237-244