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7 Ways to Tame Heart Disease Fears

By Kara Mayer Robinson
WebMD Feature

If you have concerns about your future because you have heart disease, there's good news: You have more control than you may think.

With any serious condition, fear can come knocking. But you can put it in its place.

These seven steps can ease your worries and help you live a full, active life.

1. Get the facts.

Getting answers to your questions about your health and your future can help you calm your fears and feel more in control.

Ask your doctor to explain what you can expect over the next few months and in the years to come. Go to your next appointment with a list of questions, including any worries you may have.

Be specific. Ask for clear, complete information. Finding out the truth may ease some of your concerns.

2. Voice your fears.

Talking to people you trust can help to take the sting out of fear.

If you're feeling vulnerable or worried about your health, that's normal, says Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD, a psychologist in Basking Ridge, NJ.

But don’t keep your fears inside. That can have a snowball effect, making you worry even more.

Talk about your feelings with a family member, friend, counselor, or doctor. You may also find it helpful to join a support group.

“Getting emotional support from others can help to comfort you, help you feel less alone, and may offer you a different perspective,” Becker-Phelps says.

Your family and friends can also help you manage your health. Talk to them about what it means to have heart disease, and let them know how they can support you.

3. Move to manage your anxiety.

A good way to manage anxiety, or feelings of restlessness, worry, tension, and irritability, is taking action.

So get moving. A simple thing like going for a walk can take your mind off your worries and make you feel better.

If anxiety comes on strong and suddenly, and you have shortness of breath, chest pain, or sweating, it could be panic, which too can be treated. Talk to your doctor.

4. Rethink what's possible.

You can start over and reap the benefits.

Even if your habits haven't been great before, making improvements now can still cut your odds of having a heart attack or stroke, says John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The key things to focus on are:

Exercise. Once your doctor gives you the OK, exercise is not only safe but can boost your health.

Eat and sleep well. Make a good night’s sleep a priority, and keep up a heart-healthy diet.

Quit smoking. It’s not too late. If you quit smoking today, you can help prevent a heart attack or stroke, Higgins says.

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