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Taking care of a loved one with heart disease

On August 21, 2018


Did you know that September 29 is World Heart Day? We are taking this opportunity to ask Andréane Tardif, Project Manager at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, to tell us more about heart diseases and the resources available to caregivers and their loved ones.

 

What are the main risk factors of heart disease?

Up to 80% of early heart disease and stroke can be prevented. Small, healthy changes in your daily routine can reduce the risk of developing these diseases.

Lifestyle-related risk factors can be controlled.

  • Unhealthy diet       
  • Lack of exercise    
  • Unhealthy weight   
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Recreational drug use

Some health problems increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.  

  • Blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atrial fibrillation

There are also risk factors that you cannot control.

  • Sex
  • Age
  • Family and medical history
  • South Asian or African heritage
  • Indigenous heritage
  • Personal circumstances (for example, accessibility to healthy food, safe drinking water, health care and social services)

Assess your risk of heart disease and stroke right now, for free at www.heartandstroke.ca.

 

What are the signs of a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when a blockage prevents blood from circulating to an area of the heart, which is then deprived of oxygen. This area will gradually deteriorate until the blood supply is restored. The extent of the damage depends on the length of the interruption, from slight to severe and irreversible damage.

Signs of a heart attack 

  • Chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness)
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort (neck, jaw, shoulder, arm or back)
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness

 

As a caregiver, how can I help a loved suffering from heart disease or a heart attack?

It is very important to learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack and know what to do in case of an emergency. Visit the Heart and Stroke website for more information.

You can also take CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training.

As well,  take care of yourself as a caregiver:

  • Ask your family, friends or a community organization for help. Do not feel guilty if you cannot be with the person all the time.
  • Take care of your physical health. Eat a healthy diet, try to do regular physical activity and get enough sleep.

 

What resources are available to help with recovery after a heart attack or simply to live better everyday with heart disease?

The Heart and Stroke is the number one Canadian reference for cardiovascular health information. We also have various leaflets and guides for loved ones and heart disease survivors. The guide Living Well with Heart Disease can be downloaded in its entirety from our website, or ordered free of charge in English or French. There is no charge for shipping, and you can reorder the resources as many times as necessary. Fill out our order form to obtain the aforementioned guide, as well as many other leaflets on risk factors. We also encourage you to read the Heart and Get Healthy sections of the Heart and Stroke website.

 

How can the Heart and Stroke Foundation help people with heart disease and caregivers?

The Heart and Stroke's mission is to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery. The foundation funds various research projects and advocates on the public’s behalf for governments to promote health.

It also offers online support groups for individuals living with heart disease (atrial fibrillation, heart failure) or with the effects of such a disease (heart attack) or stroke (CVA). Everyone is encouraged to join our survivors’ community, a bilingual Facebook group that is safe and respectful, where you can find social and emotional support as well as tips for living with heart disease or after a stroke. The foundation also launched a support group for family caregivers.

For more information on our online communities, visit heartandstroke.ca/recovery-and-support/the-power-of-community.