Learning to Live with Heart Disease
Millions of people diagnosed with heart disease enjoy active, satisfying lives. By using your mind to help your body, obtaining appropriate medical care, and making changes in your lifestyle, you can learn to live life to the fullest despite your condition.
The steps listed below can help you take charge of your heart health and your life.
Learn all you can
Empower yourself. Start thinking and acting proactively. Learn about your condition, treatment options, and the steps you can take to make your therapy a success. Take responsibility for doing all you can to positively affect your health.
Choose the right healthcare provider. This is one of the most important medical decisions you’ll make. Ask friends and medical professionals for recommendations, then check the healthcare provider’s background. Follow your intuition. Don’t go to a healthcare provider if you have doubts about his or her training, track record, or manner. What’s most important is that you communicate well and he or she understands you and your concerns.
Make the most of your healthcare visits. Write down a list of your concerns before your appointment, then ask your most important questions first. Make sure you fully understand the answers given. Ask for clarification if needed.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. For example, your provider may recommend that you quit smoking, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, control diabetes, eat a low-fat diet, or exercise regularly. Making these lifestyle changes may reverse the progression of heart disease and reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to figure out realistic changes that you can make to your life.
Have an emergency plan. Ask your healthcare provider which symptoms you should watch for and what you should do if they appear. Call 911 or your local emergency-response number if you believe you’re having a heart attack or stroke. The most common symptoms are chest pressure or chest pain that can radiate to the jaw, neck, shoulder or back, shortness of breath, feelings of faintness, or indigestion.
Involve your family. Heart disease affects your family, too, and having their support can help you make necessary lifestyle changes more easily. Ask family members to learn about your condition. Take them to one of your appointments and let them ask questions about your treatment. You and your family can take a CPR class to prepare in case you or someone in your community has a heart emergency.
Join a support group. Ask your healthcare provider, hospital community service liaison, or your local affiliate of the American Heart Association to recommend a heart patient group in your area. These groups vary in their character and objectives, so plan on visiting a few of them before deciding which one is right for you.