Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heart Disease: Three Steps for Helping Your Loved One Following Diagnosis

If you have a loved one who has recently been diagnosed with heart disease, or has suffered a heart attack, they are going to need your help now more than ever before.
You can be their cheerleader, their dietary advisor, and their exercise partner, all rolled into one.

As we discussed recently, when someone receives a diagnosis of heart disease, or suffers a heart related event, it is common for them to go through a time of depression. But, having someone there to empathise and encourage, can make a huge difference to how they cope.

It may not be an easy task, I know, but it's a worthwhile one.

So, what can you do to help you loved one following a diagnosis of heart disease?

1. Discuss smoking

Quitting smoking is just the first step on the journey to a healthy lifestyle. Let's be straight, continuing to smoke after a diagnosis of heart disease is slow suicide.

But, you can be your loved one's main supporter in their effort to stop smoking, helping them to become accountable for the lifestyle choices they make from now onwards.

2. Discuss exercises

Exercise is essential in general for good health, but especially for someone with heart disease. The health care team will probably recommend a number of suitable exercises, which are safe and effective for your loved one.

So, what can you do? Well, you can make sure they get some exercise daily, by being their exercise partner — their fitness coach if you like! Studies show that people who exercise with a partner are more compliant than those who don't.

Types of exercise which are suitable for those with heart disease include:

* Walking. This is the best form of exercise, and it can be done anywhere.
* Cycling. Stationary bikes, or cycling around the local neighborhood are perfect.
* Pilates. This is great because it helps the body to get stronger, while at the same time decreasing stress and anxiety.
* Swimming. This is an excellent choice for those who are overweight, providing a full body workout, without stressing the joints.

While you are exercising, be extra vigilant and look out for the following symptoms:

* Chest pain, or pain in the neck, jaw or shoulder.
* Dizziness or nausea.
* Unusual shortness of breath.
* Unusual feelings of fatigue.
* Unusual heart beat: too slow, too fast, or a feeling of skipped beats.

If they experiences any of these symptoms, stop exercising right away and get medical attention.

As a side note, have you thought about becoming certified in CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation? You can get certified through your local chapter of the Red Cross, or your local hospital. This will give you the training necessary to start life saving measures, if it ever became necessary.

3. Discuss diet

A healthy, whole food diet is just as important as a regular exercise routine. However, we all know that changing poor eating habits can be a challenge on your own.

Perhaps your own eating habits aren't really up to scratch either. Well, now is the perfect time to make changes — imagine how you would feel if someone gave you a measly salad, while they tucked into a big, fat, juicy cheeseburger?

The following simple tips should help you and your loved one:

  • Learn how to read food labels. Know what is in the food you eat.
  • Use an online nutrition calculator to work out the nutritional value of the foods you choose.
  • Eat more whole, fresh fruits and vetetables.
  • Include whole grains and high fiber foods into your diet.
  • Stay away from processed foods. They contain way to much sodium and preservatives.
  • Reduce your intake of drinks and food that contain a lot of added sugars, and artificial sweeteners.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  • Have a chat with a dietitian to work out the best type of diet for your loved one's condition.
  • Learn portion control. This is very important to maintaining a healthy weight.

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