Heart disease is quite common in Canada. On average, 6/1000 Canadian adults are newly diagnosed with heart disease each year.
For those living with heart disease and those who love someone living with heart disease, it can be difficult to return to a normal life. After your diagnosis or experience, it is important to adjust your lifestyle and get the support you need. Heart disease is a complicated chronic illness, meaning that you will have it for the rest of your life. It is caused by many things, both known and unknown, and sometimes it is beyond your control. Cardiac rehabilitation and recovery can take months and it takes time to adopt a new daily routine. However, your doctors and support network are there to help you.
With the right management, you can learn to live a healthy life and enjoy it too. It is important to not rush the process, ask for help when you need it, and do things that make you happy. Focusing on what you can control rather than what you cannot is a good first step. This can be achieved by managing your emotional reactions, physical health, and connection to others. All of these aspects are essential to a happy life since heart disease impacts both your body and mind.
Managing Emotional Reactions
It is essential to care for your emotional health as much as your physical health. Those diagnosed with heart disease are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, fear, and hostility, so it is important to learn to recognize those feelings and how to get help.
One way to care for your mental health is by staying away from stressors. By monitoring your stress and anxiety levels, you can identify areas of stress in your life and work with your doctor and support network to address them. It helps to talk about your fears, anxiety, and emotions to better understand and overcome hardships.
Managing Physical Health
Eating healthy, staying active, and monitoring your physical health can save you from another hospital visit. It all starts with monitoring your own symptoms and communicating any changes, big and small, to your doctor. You know your body best and by simple monitoring, your doctor can have greater insight into your life to better guide your cardiac rehabilitation. Make physical monitoring part of your daily routine by:
- Taking your medications regularly and as instructed by your doctor.
- Monitoring your weight and notifying your doctor of any changes, whether weight gain or weight loss.
- Eating a healthy diet, including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fibre. Monitor your sodium intake, eat less salt, and drink more water. Reduce alcohol consumption as it may interfere with some medications and increase your blood pressure. And decrease caffeine consumption to prevent irregular heart rates. For more ideas of a heart-healthy diet, see our blog.
- Getting plenty of sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours each night.
More physical activity will improve blood flow and strengthen your heart. There are a number of sports and other physical activities that can help your heart, but always create a plan with your doctor and ensure that it is right for your body. Always start off slow and go at your own pace.
Stay Connected to Others
Staying connected to your loved ones can help return you to normal and adjust to your new lifestyle. They can help manage your heart disease and could also contribute to the reduction of stress by having someone to talk to and connect with. Create a support network of family, friends, and your doctors to lean on in hard times and to share stories and laughs with. Laughing is the best medicine.
Always remember that there is no set timeline for cardiac rehabilitation, everyone heals and adjusts at their own pace. However, self care is essential to a healthy mind and a healthy heart. You can live with heart disease, it is manageable, although it is a lifestyle adjustment. Managing your emotional reactions, physical health, and connection with others are ways to support your new lifestyle in a positive way.