If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with heart disease, you may be feeling overwhelmed. While much anxiety stems from the unknown, remember that information is power. The more that you know about your condition, the better armed you will be when it comes to treatment and potential prevention.
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Cardiologist Richard Krasuski, MD, shares helpful, actionable advice for newly diagnosed heart patients:
His four must-know pieces of advice
1. Ask your physician to explain your condition.
You need to understand exactly what makes your heart different from a normal heart. Ask for patient education literature; you or a family member also can take notes on what your doctor says. Work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan.
2. Find out what caused your condition.
Your heart condition may have been caused by an issue present at birth (congenital), or it may be due to lifestyle factors such as your diet, exercise and whether you smoke.
3. Take immediate steps to correct contributing lifestyle factors.
For example: If you are a couch potato, put one foot in front of the other. Your physician, cardiac rehab specialist and/or physical therapist can guide your exercise goals while keeping in mind any limitations of your disease.
If you smoke, stop.
Also ask your cardiologist for a heart-healthy plan that limits sodium and that’s low in fat and cholesterol. Cleveland Clinic cardiologists often recommend the Mediterranean diet due to its focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, higher fish-to-meat ratio, and emphasis on whole grains.
4. Tap into your support system.
This is the time that you may want to lean on your family and friends to help support your health.
Dr. Krasuski says that patients with strong social support networks have better outcomes than those who do not. Members of your support system can attend doctors’ appointments with you, and they can join you in your efforts to eat more healthfully and to undertake an exercise/cardiac rehab program.
The more you know about your heart condition, the more you can do to optimize your chances for improved health and quality of life. Be sure to work closely with your cardiologist to develop the best treatment and prevention plan for your specific needs.