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Learning to Live with Heart Disease

Many people with heart disease enjoy active, fulfilling lives. By using your mind to help your body, getting appropriate medical care, and making lifestyle changes, you can learn to live life to the fullest despite your condition.

The steps below can help you take charge of your heart health and your life.

Learn all you can

Empower yourself. Think and act 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 health decisions you'll make. Ask friends and health providers for recommendations. Check the healthcare provider's background. Follow your intuition. Don't go to a healthcare provider if you have doubts about their training, track record, or manner. What's most important is that you communicate well and that they understand you and your concerns. This may become a lifelong relationship.

Make the most of your healthcare visits. Write down a list of your concerns before your appointment. Ask your most important questions first. Make sure you fully understand the answers given. Ask for explanations if needed.

Follow your healthcare provider's directions. For example, your provider may advise you to quit smoking or stop using other tobacco products. Or they may advise you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and control diabetes. You may be advised to eat a low-fat diet and get to a healthy weight. You may need to limit alcohol, reduce stress, and exercise regularly. Making these lifestyle changes may help make your heart disease better. These may lower your chances of a heart attack or stroke. It's important to work with your provider to figure out changes that you can make to your life.

Know your medicines. Heart disease is a long-term (chronic) condition that's treated with different medicines. These medicines keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. The medicines also prevent or ease symptoms. It's important that you know what medicines you are taking. Know the doses and how often you take them. Also know the side effects that are common with certain medicines. Ask your healthcare provider what to do if you miss a dose. Ask when you should not take certain medicines. Ask these same questions any time you are prescribed a new medicine. Some heart disease medicines can have serious interactions with other medicines. This could cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure. Or it could cause your heart medicines not to work as well.

Plan ahead

Have an emergency plan. Ask your healthcare provider which symptoms you should watch for and what you should do if they appear.

Involve your family. Heart disease affects your family, too. Having their support can help you make lifestyle changes more easily. Ask family members to learn about your condition. Take them to 1 of your appointments and let them ask questions about your treatment. You and your family can take a CPR class in case you or someone in your community has a heart emergency.

Join a support group. Ask your healthcare provider, local hospital, or local American Heart Association office to recommend a heart patient group in your area. These groups vary in their makeup and goals. Plan on visiting a few of them before deciding which one is right for you.

Call 911

Call 911 or your local emergency number if you think you're having a heart attack or stroke. The most common symptoms are

  • Chest pressure or chest pain that can spread to the jaw, neck, shoulder or back

  • Shortness of breath

  • Feeling faint

  • Heartburn.

Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Steven Kang MD
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2023
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