GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - If you knew you were at a higher risk for a heart attack, would you change your lifestyle so you could live longer?
It seems like the answer would be 'yes' but for many it's not.
Anyone who has been told by their doctor they need to lose weight or stop smoking in order to lower their risk of a heart attack knows how hard it is. That's because what you really need to change is your brain. Deep inside your brain is where your cravings are coming from.
Dr. Michael Wolff is a neuropsychologist with the Grand Rapids based B.R.A.I.N.S. He says when you emotionally eat or smoke you are making psychical changes to your brain.
"Once we start to get addicted, and once we start craving, our brain stops making good decisions and instead it's willing to sacrifice going to jail, risk your life driving, to risk your life with coronary disease because you are obese, but you still can not necessary get control of that craving or need for the food."
It's something West Shore Cardiologist Dr. Daniel West sees in almost all of his patients. "For people who have had heart attacks, only about a third have been able to quit smoking after the heart attack. It isn't that maybe they'll have a heart problem. They definitely have a heart problem. The basic problem here is that those things make them feel better."
And that's the reason why it is so difficult to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Someone who is all to familiar with that emotional attachment to food is Thunder 94.5's Joe "Flounder" Piezs. "I think I finally realized that I'm really good at lying to myself. And that's when I said, 'you got to quite lying. You've got to do something' and that's when I said, ok let's really try to do it."
After one failed attempt at weight loss after another, he has finally mentally committed to the process. And it started with a simple food journal that forced him to take a look at his emotions.
"I hated it too in the food journal that I wrote down, how were you feeling? Hungry I guess. So maybe I was sad, maybe I was angry, maybe something happened at work and I'd say oh that's it you were ticked off at something that happened at work or your mom or one of your buddies and then you went and ate something."
But despite his nearly 90 pound weight loss, Joe still struggles with resisting temptation and he doesn't always win.
"I still have moments and have this horrible food that I know even when I'm eating it feels like I'm high or I'm drunk it feels so great, but I know it's horrible for you and I'm going to feel bad after but mentally it's so tough."
And that feeling unfortunately is not going away anytime soon according to Dr. Wolff.
"To lose that addiction, to take it away, we'd like to think 28 days is enough, but it is not nearly enough. We're talking months to years before you become comfortable not having those cravings any more. Twenty years of emotional eating is gonna probably take about the same time to relinquish."
Here's a look at how addiction moves through your brain.
First the desire is created, then it moves through memory reminding you how your addiction makes you feel, flows into the decision making area of your brain where you begin to make decisions based on your need to feed your addiction.
So now we've got proof that controlling addictions is the key to helping those at risk lower their chances of a heart attack.
But Dr. West says there's one more step that can help.
"It's amazing how it's easy to be a lot more empathetic with people when you understand what's going on in their lives and not just deal with their physical complaints that deal with their heart disease. If physicians don't delve into that part of their patient's story it's going to be very difficult to make any progress."
And progress is what you need for a healthy heart.
If you'd like to attend a seminar to help you work through concerns about your health, stress, and eating or smoking after a heart attack Dr. West is holding one on the lakeshore and it's free and open to the public.
St. Patrick's Family Center
901 Columbus Ave.
Grand Haven, MI 49417
Thursday, March 7, 2013
6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
St. Patricks & St. Anthony
Matters of the Heart
Women's Emotional and
Questions: Call Patricia Rasch, Health Ministry, at (616) 842.0001 ext. 19
Dan West, MD, Richard Raubolt, PhD, & Amy West, MSW