It may come as a shock when your loved one is diagnosed with heart conditions or is admitted for the same. You may go through various emotions, from being anxious and scared to feeling angry or guilty.

It is essential to understand here that these emotions are normal. Often family members are more anxious than the patient. 

Taking care of people with heart disease may be challenging. Understanding the problem can allow you to help the person better. There are many things to take care of, which may take a toll on your mental and physical health.

Thankfully, there are many things you can do to take care of your loved one and yourself too.

Let’s understand them!

What Does Heart Disease Look Like? Common Warning Signs

Sometimes, patients with heart disease do not realize that they have symptoms or are reluctant to share them. Paying attention to signs can help you understand their progress and if they have got any new symptoms.

While symptoms vary for different disorders, the common ones include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain between shoulder blades
  • Chest tightness, pain, or discomfort
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Numbness, coldness, pain, or weakness in arms or legs
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Blue or pale color of the skin
  • Swelling of the abdomen, legs, and around the eyes
  • Fatigue at rest or after activity
  • Dry or persistent cough

You can learn more about the different heart diseases here.

Common Warning signs

If the person has the mentioned symptoms, seek medical aid immediately:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Appearance of new symptoms
  • Worsening of existing symptoms

How Can You Help Someone Suffering?

Everyone with heart disease may need a different type of care. For instance, people with congestive heart failure have restrictions on water intake. So, it is best to understand the precautions and type of care your loved ones need.

The following tips may help:

Learn About the Treatment

Try and learn about the heart condition, the aggravating factors, prognosis, outcomes, and treatment options. 

It is also a good option to weigh each therapy’s pros and cons to make an informed decision.

Besides, ensure that they take medicines regularly as treatment adherence is essential to prevent cardiac complications. Many people avoid medication because of their side effects. So, keep a pill count to know if they have skipped the doses.

Be Available

Whenever possible, accompany them for their visit to the doctor’s office. It will help them relax, and you will get to understand what the doctor has advised. Also, ensure that they regularly visit the physician. 

Besides, be available whenever they are low and don’t feel like taking medicine or food. Call and visit them often.

Have a Heart-Healthy Diet

Heart-healthy food may sound bland and boring. But this is not the case. You can understand the healthy ingredients and prepare tasty meals low in fats, sugar, and sodium and rich in vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.

Try healthier cooking options such as steaming, boiling, and baking.

Healthy food options include:

  • Avocado
  • Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
  • Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Cheese
  • Soy
  • Spinach
  • Unprocessed meats
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Olive oil

Encourage Exercise

While it may be difficult to encourage others to exercise, being patient may help. Encourage heart-healthy movements. The best way to do this is to join them. Try and suggest fun activities that your loved one would enjoy.

For instance, have a walk in nature or take a yoga class.

Ease Emotions

Any disease comes with emotional baggage. It is seen that depression is common among heart disease patients. So, try and calm them whenever possible. Lend a sympathetic ear when they need you.

Try and encourage a positive outlook. Social activities or joining a support group might help.

Manage Other Medical Conditions

Patients may have other diseases along with a heart condition, such as diabetes or hypertension. In many cases, an underlying disorder is a causative factor for the heart problem.

So, managing these diseases will help manage the heart condition and lower the risk of complications. For instance, in case of hypertension, make sure their blood pressure is under control. 

Help Them Overcome Unhealthy Habits

If your loved one has unhealthy habits such as smoking or alcohol, help them quit. These will make it easier to manage the condition and prevent other complications.

You know more about smoking cessation here.

Care for Yourself

Lastly, don’t forget to care for yourself. If you are unwell, you won’t be able to help others. If you are too overwhelmed at times, catch a break. It is okay to take a break once in a while for activities that you enjoy.

Diagnosis

The doctor will run a physical check and ask about medical and family history to diagnose a heart condition. They may also advise the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Electrocardiogram: It is a quick test that monitors the electrical activity of the heart. It can help diagnose abnormal heart rhythm. The test can be done at rest or while exercising.
  • Holter monitoring: It is a portable ECG device that is to be worn continuously. It will record the heart rhythm continuously. It aids in finding a heart rhythm problem that may not be picked up during a regular ECG.
  • Stress test: This involves increasing the heart rate by exercising while performing a heart test. It aids in understanding how the heart reacts to stress.
  • Echocardiogram: It is ultrasonography of your heart that provides images of the heart. It helps in understanding the pumping action of the heart. 
  • Cardiac catheterization: A tube is introduced in an artery or vein in the leg in this test. The doctor guides this tube to reach the heart. The pressure of the heart is measured, and dye can be injected to know the blood flow of the heart and the function of the valves.
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Here, magnetic and radio waves are created that offer detailed images of the heart.
  • Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan: The patient lies on the table and then slides into the machine. Here, an X-ray tube rotates around the body to collect images of the chest and heart.

Treatment and Medication

Management of heart diseases depends on the type and severity of the problem. For instance, if you have a heart infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.

Generally, the treatment approach of heart diseases falls into the mentioned categories:

Lifestyle Changes

Healthy lifestyle choices can not only help to manage heart disease but also prevent them. It can also prevent it from getting worse.

The following changes may help:

Medications

When lifestyle measures are not sufficient, your doctor may prescribe medications to control or cure your heart problem. Medicines may also help to prevent or slow down the risk of complications.

An ideal choice of drug depends on your problem and many other factors.

Surgery or Invasive procedures

In some cases, surgery is essential to prevent the worsening of the problem or to cure it.

For instance, your doctor may have to place a stent to regularize your blood flow if you have blocked arteries.

The type of procedure depends on the extent of heart damage and your condition.

Precautions 

Some precautions that may help to manage the condition better are:

  • Managing other health conditions
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise for about 30 minutes a day
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Practice good hygiene
  • Manage cholesterol levels
  • Manage stress
  • Take depression treatment if required

Final Thoughts

Taking care of a loved one suffering from heart disease may be a challenging task. Try and understand the condition, warning signs, use of medicines, and lifestyle changes that may help. But in the process, do not forget to take care of yourself!


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