Did You Know? The Heart Owner’s Handbook

“Suppose that you could look 5 years into the future. You see yourself in an intensive care unit, having just suffered a heart attack or stroke, when a doctor walks in the room and tells your family that your chances of dying are one in three. If you knew that you might avoid this fate by making changes in your lifestyle, would you make those changes? More than likely, you would.”

                                —Dr. Cooley, in his foreword from the Heart Owner’s Handbook

Dr. Cooley was devoted to saving hearts—and lives. He was passionate not only about treating heart disease, but also about preventing it. In fact, to educate the general public on heart health, Cooley and THI staff members published a book called the Heart Owner’s Handbook in 1995. Written in an easy-to-read format for people of all ages, the handbook provides a comprehensive guide for men and women on how to evaluate their own heart health, identify risk factors, and follow a life-long program of preventing and reversing heart disease. The book contains an appendix full of resources and dozens of heart-smart recipes. As aptly put by renowned heart surgeon Dr. John Ochsner, “This book, written by a knowledgeable group, describes various methods to diagnose and treat problems of the heart, but more important, it conveys methods to keep you from needing their expertise.”

Focused on ways to improve overall health and reduce the risk for heart disease, the book includes chapters on exercise, weight control, blood pressure and cholesterol level management, smoking cessation, stress management, nutrition, and the differences in heart health between men and women. The book’s final section shifts from the prevention of heart disease to its diagnosis and treatment, focusing on the cardiovascular system, heart disease symptoms, diagnostic techniques, and surgical options.

Because of its wide applicability, the Heart Owner’s Handbook has been published in other languages, including Polish and Russian. The book is still available for sale in the US today, in both hard-copy and digital formats (however, the toll-free number that readers are given to call with questions is no longer in use). The fact that lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising, make a difference in heart health is as relevant today as it was when the book was published more than 25 years ago. Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease continues to be a major health and economic problem. As Dr. Cooley poignantly remarked in the book’s foreword, “All the medical advances in the world won’t eradicate heart disease if people don’t alter these [detrimental] patterns of behavior. As I once read, ‘If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one.’”

Image: (Top) The cover of the Heart Owner’s Handbook published in the US, 1995 (right), in Poland, 1997 (center) [Serce is Polish for heart; Takaski Instytut Kardiologii is Polish for Texas Heart Institute], and in Russia, 1998 (left) [сердце is Russian for heart, pronounced serdtse; Техасский институт сердца is Russian for Texas Heart Institute]. (Below) Dr. Patrick J. Hogan, THI cardiologist and medical advisor for the Texas Heart Institute Heart Owner’s Handbook, and Dr. Denton A. Cooley, president and surgeon-in-chief at THI at a book signing event in 1995.