If you have an older loved one who has been diagnosed with heart disease, it can be a scary time for both of you. While your loved one will be living with this illness for the rest of their life, there are ways to manage it and work to prevent it from getting worse. Below are some things to keep in mind as you help your loved one adjust to life with heart disease.
First, your loved one is likely going to need to change something about their lifestyle in order to improve their health, and they will need your support to do so. For example, your loved one will be encouraged to eat a healthier diet that is low in fat and salt. Cutting down on these two items takes a lot of getting used to because it often means giving up foods they love. One way you can assist your loved one is by helping them search for healthy recipes online. You can also introduce them with new ways to season their food, such as with spices, fresh cilantro, or ginger. If you live near a Farmer’s Market, take your loved one there and encourage them to select some new vegetables and fruits that look appealing. Go to the grocery store with them and help them to choose foods that are high in whole grains, as well as low-fat dairy products.
Your loved one will also be encouraged to increase the amount they are exercising. This can be difficult at first, because fatigue is a symptom of heart disease, particularly for those who have had a heart attack. Be sure to obtain complete information from your loved one’s physician regarding their body’s current physical capabilities. Then, work with them to start out very slowly, perhaps as slowly as just walking down to the end of their street, and then increasing their exercise a little bit each day.
Finally, it will be very important to keep an eye on your loved one’s mood. The sudden changes to their lifestyle may cause them to slip into a depression. Alternately, fear of the disease and of the potential for having a heart attack may give them crippling anxiety. It is very important for someone with chronic heart disease to keep their stress levels to a minimum. Therefore, if you notice that your loved one seems out of sorts emotionally, you should schedule an appointment for them to meet with a mental health professional as soon as possible.