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Heart Health

When someone you love has heart disease

October 1, 2021

How can you help a family member or friend manage the physical and emotional challenges of a heart disease diagnosis?

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The aftermath of a heart attack or heart disease diagnosis can be tough sledding, not just for patients but also for the people who are close to them. Fear, worry, and depression are natural, normal reactions for everyone involved. The recovery period and beyond often requires some major lifestyle adjustments — especially diet and exercise changes. Managing additional medical appointments and tests, along with a new medication regimen, further adds to these challenges.

"Research shows that heart attack survivors have better outcomes if they have someone supporting them," says Gisele Bousquet, program director at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program in Foxborough, Mass. Family and friends frequently want to help, but they don’t always know how. It’s one thing to learn how much salt a person should eat or how much exercise they should do. Implementing and encouraging those changes — especially when everyone’s feeling more anxious and stressed than usual — is a whole different ball game.

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