SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY (August 24, 2015) – A life-changing medical diagnosis can be frightening. The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association now has resources to help in the emotional and physical recovery of heart disease and stroke survivors and those caring for them.
The Support Network offers an online community, as well as materials for starting or enhancing face-to-face community-based support groups, and resources for healthier living. The goal is to connect people living with heart disease and stroke with others who are going through similar journeys. It is online at www.heart.org/supportnetwork .
Research shows the stress of dealing with an illness can impact health. A study from the Journal of the American Heart Association found that a general lack of social support is associated with poor health and quality of life and depression in young men and women a year after having a heart attack.
The person who’s had a heart attack or stroke isn’t the only one impacted by these life-changing events. The stress of caring for a disabled spouse can significantly raise the caregiver’s risk of future stroke, especially among African-American men, according to a study in the journal, Stroke.
“It’s very common for people to feel depressed, isolated and overwhelmed after having a heart attack or stroke,” said James Lyons, MD, FACC, FACP, Heart Failure Program Director and cardiologist with the Hudson Valley Heart Center. Lyons is a member of the AHA’s Board of Directors, “The Support Network is a place where people can find and offer emotional support with others going through similar journeys. Who knows better what you might be feeling than someone who has been there?”
The monitored online community offers people a place to ask questions, share concerns or fears, provide helpful tips and find encouragement and inspiration. As an online community, it offers convenience for families or patients who cannot otherwise travel to a traditional support group.
Some people may prefer more personal interaction, and that’s where face-to-face community-based support groups can be beneficial. The online Support Network houses all the tools and resources needed to start an in-person support group, including train-the-trainer materials for group leaders, checklists for building groups and even sample agendas for meetings. Support groups can also set up an online meeting space where members can stay in touch between in-person meetings.
“I already found a woman online who, like me, had heart failure after the birth of children. It’s such a rare condition, so it’s difficult to find someone else locally who has gone through it. This online network reaches a wider audience. I’m grateful to have it available when I need it,” said Katie O’Keeffe of Poughkeepsie.
O’Keeffe was born with a mitral valve prolapse, where the heart valve doesn’t close all the way, and had valve surgery in 1999. Just one week after the birth of her daughter in 2007, her sleep was disturbed by constant coughing at night, feeling light headed and not feeling well. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and now has an implanted defibrillator.
“Whether online or in-person, sharing stories, experiences and practical advice can make a positive impact in how you face challenges in your heart disease or stroke recovery,” said Carolyn Torella, AHA Communications Director, “We are proud to be able to add this expanding resource that can be so helpful in improving the quality of life for people we serve.”