Many stick with fast food after heart attack: study

NEW YORK Sun Feb 20, 2011 9:20pm EST

A woman walks out of a McDonald's restaurant in New York January 24, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A woman walks out of a McDonald's restaurant in New York January 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It would seem logical for patients who have had a heart attack to cut back on fast food.

Some devoted fast food eaters do. But six months later, more than half can still be found at their favorite fast food places at least once a week, according to a study in the American Journal of Cardiology.

Of nearly 2,500 heart attack patients studied by John Spertus, at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, 884 -- or 36 percent -- reported in a survey while still hospitalized that they had eaten fast food frequently in the month before their heart attack. "Frequently" was defined as once a week or more.

When Spertus and his colleagues checked back six months later, 503 were still eating fast food every week.

"Fast food consumption by patients with AMI (acute myocardial infarction) decreased 6 months after the index hospitalization, but certain populations -- including younger patients, men, those currently working, and less educated patients -- were more likely to consume fast food, at least weekly, during follow-up," he wrote.

"Novel interventions that go beyond traditional dietary counseling may be needed to address continued fast food consumption after AMI in these patients."

But the study showed that older patients and those who had bypass surgery were more likely to be avoiding fast food six months later.

The survey did not ask what menu items people ordered, and some in the restaurant business have pointed out that fast food isn't always limited just to burgers and fries.

But Spertus and his colleagues pointed out that the people in their study who kept eating fast food tended to have health profiles "consistent with selection of less healthy options."

Nine out of 10 patients in the study received dietary counseling before they left the hospital, but this didn't seem to affect that odds that frequent fast food eaters would improve their diets, and Spertus said this showed they needed more education after leaving the hospital.

"The problem is that patients are absorbing so much information at the time of their heart attack, that I just don't think they can capture and retain all the information they're getting," he told Reuters Health.

Fast food restaurants in the United States will soon post calorie, fat, sodium and other nutritional information on their menus, as required by the health care law passed last year.

Already, cities such as New York and Philadelphia mandate calorie counts on menus.


(Reporting by Kerry Grens at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (2)
ReneeC2010 wrote:
It is common in the U.S. that a lot of people don’t care what they eat and don’t care about keeping themselves healthy. I have coworkers who have tons of chronic issues but eat bad anyway, such as my coworker with diabetes who constantly eats candy, donuts, cookies and cake but just takes more insulin because of her careless eating. I am tired of paying so much for my healthcare insurance coverage which rises ever year due to my chronically ill coworkers who do absolutely nothing healthy for themselves and constantly keep themselves on medications.

Feb 21, 2011 11:47am EST  --  Report as abuse
LuLu16 wrote:
I guess I am continually amazed that we continue to spend money on studies that we already know the answers to. I am not condoning the behaviors, as it is difficult for some to understand that they have choices and ultimately control over what they put into their bodies. We all pay the price for the lack of personal accountability.

Feb 22, 2011 12:13pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.