Matters of the Heart: Caring for Loved One with Heart Disease
More than 18.2 million Americans over age 20 are living with coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common heart disease, according to the Centers for Control and Prevention (CDC). And because heart disease is a leading cause of death, it’s important for loved ones and their families to follow doctors’ orders and live a heart-healthy life – something that requires patience, commitment and a little bit of grace.
“Picking up a new habit or stopping an unhealthy one isn’t always easy,” admits T Newsome, MD, internal medicine physician at Adventist Medical Group. “However, those with heart disease need to do their best to eat healthy, exercise and follow up with their provider. Their loved ones play an important role in encouraging them on their path.”
Dr. Newsome offers his advice on how family caregivers can support their loved one living with heart disease.
Reduce the risk for future heart attack
Heart disease is a leading cause of heart attack. And, as Dr. Newsome explains, once you’ve had a heart attack, your risk of having another heart attack or stroke increases. Help your loved one reduce their risk of additional heart damage:
- Take medicine as prescribed. Help your loved one remember when and what medicines to take with gentle reminders or a system to help you both keep track – like a pill organizer.
- Keep heart-healthy foods in the house. Help your loved one resist temptation by buying only heart-healthy foods.
- Get active together. Head outdoors for a walk around the block or sign up for a (virtual) exercise class together.
- Kick the tobacco habit. It’s never too late to quit smoking. If anyone in the house smokes, they should quit to help improve the health and wellness of your loved one.
- Know the important numbers. Help your loved one keep track of their health numbers. The most important numbers for heart health are blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index (BMI). Keeping these numbers under control is a good indication your loved one’s heart is staying healthy.
Know the signs of heart attack
The American Heart Association recommends you get help immediately if you or a loved one experience any of these warning signs of a heart attack:
- Chest discomfort (including pressure, pain or fullness in the chest)
- Pain the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
Dr. Newsome encourages family caregivers to get their loved one immediate medical attention at the first warning sign of a heart attack. It can save their life.
“Any doctor will tell you it’s better to be safe than sorry if you’re even the slightest bit concerned that a loved one is experiencing a heart attack,” he says. “Call 911 and get your loved one to the nearest hospital.”
It may be tempting to jump in the car at the first sign of a heart attack, but first responders have specialized training and equipment to deliver lifesaving care your loved one needs before arriving at the hospital.
Learn how Adventist HealthCare is delivering heart care during the COVID-19 pandemic.