Heart Disease Living

Living with heart disease may mean dealing with the aftermath of a diagnosis, or it may mean adjusting to healthy lifestyle changes after heart surgery. In either case, life with heart disease can be challenging, some simple steps can help you maintain your heart health while imposing minimal restrictions on the activities you enjoy.

Immediately after your diagnosis or surgery, it may be necessary to take some time away from work or moderately stressful activities, like shopping or cooking. Heart disease patients may find it a good idea to reach out to family members and friends during this time.

A written plan may help heart disease patients establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle and may help keep activities, dietary reminders, medication reminders and other heart health requirements on track. Some forms of heart disease can be uncomfortable and ever-present, but others, like hypertension, present no painful symptoms. In this case, living with heart disease and protecting your heart health may require conscientious attention.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

The most important healthy lifestyle changes aim to avoid or correct heart disease risk factors. In general, this means:

  • Making appropriate diet choices. Eating for heart health means cutting back on sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat, increasing soluble fiber and choosing leafy green vegetables and fruit at least five times a day. Many heart health experts recommend three servings of fish per week. If you’re recovering from surgery, your doctor’s instructions prevail, of course, but in general it’s a good idea to drink water as often as possible and eat several small meals a day, rather than a small number of large meals.
  • Moderating activity. Depending on your condition, managing heart disease may mean a modest amount of activity each day. It may also be necessary to balance activity with ample rest. Talk to your doctor to determine the activity level and exercises appropriate for your situation.
  • Taking your heart disease seriously. If you smoke or drink heavily, this means making a sincere effort to quit smoking and cut back on alcohol consumption. If you have diabetes, it’s now more important than ever to manage your blood sugar levels. No matter your condition, try to maintain your appointments and follow up on your treatment plan and your doctor’s recommendations.

Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs

Your doctor may recommend a cardiac rehab program, which can offer exercise, education and counseling tips specific to your form of heart disease. A cardiac rehab program may be especially helpful you need to make dramatic changes to your lifestyle. Doctors, nurses and therapists involved in these programs can offer healthy lifestyle strategies as well as mental and emotional coping tips. Some programs may involve contact with a support group. Peer interaction can protect heart disease patients from anxiety and depression, which are common and can slow recovery if they are untreated.

Resources

National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. (2010). Living well with heart disease. Retrieved November 11, 2010, from http://www.womenheart.org/supportForWomen/livingHD/livingwell.cfm

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2010). Living with Heart Disease. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/other/your_guide/living_well.pdf