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.
"Finding meaning in life is a great motivator." -- psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
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.
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.
5. Take it step by step.
Make a list of things you can do for a healthier lifestyle. And then start changing one habit at a time, like improving your diet or starting a new exercise program.
Trying to change everything at once may be too much. Set goals that are specific and reasonable. Focus on meeting one goal before moving on to the next.
6. Work toward the life you want.
Set goals for tomorrow and for the years to come, Becker-Phelps says. “Finding meaning in life is a great motivator and will help you to obtain greater life satisfaction.”
Think about what you want for the future. What's important to you? How do you want to spend your time, both personally and professionally?
7. If you're depressed, get help.
Depression often rides along with heart disease. If you have feelings of sadness or emptiness, low energy, or changes in sleeping or eating, or if you stop feeling interested in things you usually enjoy, you may be depressed.
If those feelings last more than 2 weeks, talk to your doctor or a counselor. Treating depression will help you feel better and ready to move forward with your life.