So you or (your loved one) have been diagnosed with heart disease. It can be a very daunting diagnosis and the initial reactions are usually denial, anxiety grief and or depression. The may be feelings of “what is the point of living” or you may feel “this is the end, I can’t live a normal life”. The good news is: there are ways to live your life to the fullest, while at the same time improving your health and general wellbeing.
- Positive outlook: Our mental state affects the way our body reacts to illness. Having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. Positive thinking means that you approach adversity in more positive way. You always look at the best case scenario, and it often starts with how you talk to yourself in your head, these thoughts can be positive or negative. Negative thoughts may arise from misconceptions that you create in your mind because of lack of information. The health benefits of positive thinking include: Increased life span, lower rates of depression, improved immunity, better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, better coping skills during hardships and times of stress. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
- Daily acceptable exercise. Exercise is one of the ways you can lower your blood pressure, your blood sugar and cholesterol. Exercise also helps strengthen the heart and increases blood supply to the heart muscles. It also improves your “feel good” hormones, which help to elevate your mood. Heart disease doesn’t stop you from exercising, you instead have a modified version that is compatible with the state of your heart as well as your fitness level. Your cardiologist will educate you on the kind of exercise to do to improve your health.
- Take your medication and go for follow up. Your medication will only work if you swallow it! Many people stop taking medication after a while especially when they feel better and think they don’t need the drugs any longer. Some also stop going for clinic visits with the doctor because they think they “know the drug doses and they have no complaints” . Doctor visits help assess the progress of treatment, and if you need more or less medication or any additional therapies. Adequate treatment is important to living with heart disease.
- Get support. Surround yourself with family and friends that have your interest at heart. Having someone cheering you on during tough moments is very important for your mental health. Communities or support groups for people with heart disease help you interact with others on the same journey and let you know you are not alone. Vital information about heart disease and how to live with it is often shared in these groups. You can learn from their experience and this will help overcome fears you may have about your heart condition.
- Avoid mood altering substances. (Alcohol, drugs, and so on). One may feel the need to “forget the diagnosis” and turn to mood altering substances to do so. These are directly harmful to the heart and other body organs and will worsen your condition. Some of these substances may interact with your medication and with unpleasant circumstances and worsen your condition on the long term
- Eat healthy. Getting a good daily dose of fruits and vegetables, avoiding food rich in fat, salt and preservatives also contribute to improving heart health. Moderation and portion control is also key.
- Practice gratitude Find something in your day to be grateful for, even being alive is a great blessing and privilege. This will help improve your mood and general wellbeing.