5 Ways to Bust Fear in the Face of Heart Disease
By Vanessa Sheets
on February 21, 2017
By Vanessa Sheets─
You have a gut feeling that something isn’t quite right. You’re winded after walking up a short flight of stairs. Exercise feels impossible and your ankles are swollen by the end of the day. So you schedule a doctor’s visit.
“You have heart disease,” your doctor says as she looks over your test results.
Her words confirm your worst fears. Fear of losing control of your body, living with limitations and giving up your independence.
“A heart disease diagnosis can leave many women with feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and isolation,” said Mary McGowan, CEO of WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
Heart disease is the no. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. More than 2.5 million women in the U.S. live with complex cardiovascular heart diseases including heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AFib). And, women with AFib are at an increased risk for stroke, heart failure, and chronic fatigue.
Heart disease can be a tough burden to carry for women, who tend to develop heart failure at an older age than men and typically experience more symptoms. And although more men are likely to be diagnosed with AFib, women with AFib are more likely to have a stroke.
But there are key ways to bust fear in the face of heart disease that can ultimately boost your chances of recovery:
- Know you’re not alone. Connect with other women living with heart disease who can give you the emotional and social support you need. WomenHeart now offers Virtual Support Groups online to help women through their diagnosis and recovery. Register to participate by phone or video chat.
- Educate yourself and others. Stay proactive in your recovery and share your knowledge with others. Not only will you help other women identify symptoms before it’s too late, you’ll stay current on the latest proven diet and exercise strategies that benefit women with heart disease. Check out Go Red For Women for inspiring stories like this mother and daughter who fought heart disease by eating better and taking Zumba dance classes.
- Stay positive. Depression is a common theme for women with heart disease, particularly if they’ve suffered a stroke. Instead of grieving what you’ve lost, focus on things you can control, like nurturing social connections and actively participating in your recovery. Research shows that patients who stay optimistic reduce the risk of depression.
- Harvard reports that meditation can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke by lowering heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline and cortisol levels. Just 10 minutes a day can naturally offer significant heart benefits.
- Take care of yourself. This is perhaps the most difficult item on this list- many women over 50 are working stressful jobs while caring for sick parents and worrying about their adult children. Is it any wonder why research shows that women have a tougher time recovering from heart failure than men? Give yourself permission to slow down and ask for help. You have to make your health a priority if you want to get better.
If you’re one of millions of U.S. women hearing the dreaded words “you have heart disease” from your doctor, remember there are steps you can take to stay proactive in your recovery. It could make all the difference.
Vanessa Sheets is a journalist whose articles have appeared in print and online magazines and business websites. Visit her website at TheHealthWriter.com.