Heart failure is a chronic condition, and after diagnosis, it’s something that most people live with for the rest of their lives. It can affect anyone, at any age, and at present, more than half a million Canadians have heart failure, as reported by the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.
There are several different ways that heart failure can be treated. The Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research explains that these include lifestyle changes (like fluid and salt restriction), medications, and other specialized devices. You might experience long periods during which your heart failure symptoms remain stable. Despite this, there are often times when symptoms worsen, typically from excess fluid in the body.
In our last blog post, we discussed the link between heart failure and mental health. We looked at how it’s common to develop anxiety or depression as a result of the unpredictable symptoms of heart failure. As each individual case of heart failure is unique, it’s important to find the method of support that works for you. The Heart and Stroke Foundation makes an extremely important point in saying that, “asking for help is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of courage.”
Here’s a look at five different types of therapeutic aids that could help improve how you live with heart failure.
Meditation is a fantastic tool to relax the mind, even if it’s just for a couple of minutes each day while you’re at home. Research highlighted by Forbes in 2017 indicates that we spend about 47% of our waking moments thinking about something other than what we are doing in that moment. This constant mind wandering can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety.
According to the American Heart Association, meditation may do more than relax the mind. “Based on existing evidence, experts agreed that meditation may promote heart health and reduce cardiovascular risk.” In fact, meditation may help lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of mortality from chronic heart disease. As well as this, studies have also linked “meditation to healthier arteries and improved blood flow to the heart,” according to CardioSmart, American College of Cardiology.
Adding regular exercise to your routine comes with benefits for both your mind and body. When you’re exercising, your body releases endorphin chemicals which interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. These same endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, as reported by WebMD.
You can start out slowly by walking down your driveway, around your neighbourhood, or at the mall. Going swimming, biking, or doing yoga, are also great ways to boost your mood, stay active, and protect your heart. Regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure and even help to extend your life expectancy. Remember to take breaks, rest, and hydrate, when you need to. Most importantly, listen to your body and what it’s telling you.
Music is often said to be good for the soul; it has the power to make you laugh, cry, or calm you down. If you’re not familiar with music therapy, it’s the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individual goals within a therapeutic relationship between you and a credited, music therapy professional.
“As researchers have turned their attention to the effects of music on the cardiovascular system, they have found that listening to music can lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and lessen anxiety, in people hospitalized for heart ailments,” according to Harvard Health. It can also help ease pain and distress after cardiac surgery, and in otherwise healthy people, it can lower blood pressure and ease stress.
Today, music therapy is commonly used for people learning to cope with heart failure as it can alleviate stress, provide a pleasant coping strategy, and impart a feeling of control. You could work with a music therapist or try working on some music therapy at home yourself. To do this, Harvard Health recommends finding music that makes you feel good and then sitting and listening to it for 20 minutes or longer.
It’s normal to experience feelings of anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety, or depression, when you’re living with heart failure. Oftentimes, patients can feel as though their illness is a burden upon those closest to them. Seeing an expert, registered therapist, can help you talk through your concerns without fear of judgement or resentment.
If you have trouble dealing with heart failure or your treatments, if you are afraid of dying and it’s disturbing your quality of life, or if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, the Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests talking to your doctor and seeking out the best-suited psychological aid.
If you are struggling to manage your heart failure symptoms, or if you are recovering from a heart attack, your doctor might recommend cardiac rehabilitation. It’s a personalized program that can help you regain your strength, prevent your condition from worsening, and reduce your risk of future heart problems.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends talking to your doctor about how to find a program in your area or contact your nearest public health department. The Canadian Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation also has a cardiac rehabilitation program directory to help you find a program in your community.
IF YOU’RE LIVING WITH HEART FAILURE, OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS THIS CHRONIC ILLNESS, CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR CLOSED FACEBOOK SUPPORT GROUP AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION.