A traumatic health event like a heart attack can have devastating emotional and physical effects. Too often, people who’ve experienced a heart attack may put all of their focus on recovering physically, while ignoring mental health needs.
Support can be a vital part of returning to the person you were before your heart attack. Participating in a support group can have many benefits, including:
- enhanced quality of life
- improved ability to communicate with your healthcare provider and family members
- an increased understanding of heart disease
- increased ability to manage your treatment/medication regimen
- a greater adherence to lifestyle changes to improve your health
There are many support groups across the country that offer services like exercise, social activities, and opportunities to meet and talk to other people who understand what you’re going through.
Some support groups are run by medical professionals, while others are peer-led. They can vary in size, attendance rules, and how or where they connect. However, all offer the chance to share information and experiences in a friendly, supportive environment. You’ll be amazed at the difference a support group can make in your mental and emotional recovery.
Here are five strategies to help you find the support group that’s right for you.
1. Ask your doctor or hospital
Most doctors and cardiovascular units within hospitals keep a list of support groups in your area. In addition to supervised exercise sessions, education, and relaxation, your cardiac rehabilitation program is a great place to find emotional and peer support. Many programs have support groups for patients that are led by healthcare professionals. Attend a few sessions to see if you click with others.
2. Contact the American Heart Association
Both patients and healthcare providers often turn to the American Heart Association (AHA) for information and treatment guidelines to help with physical recovery. The AHA is also a place to turn for help with your emotional recovery. Their Support Network offers an online community, as well as materials for starting face-to-face community-based support groups. These can help connect you with others who are going through similar journeys.
3. Find a gender-specific support group
If you’re one of the millions of women in the United States living with or at risk for heart disease, you can connect with other women through the online Go Red for Women heart match program. Share your story and connect with a kindred spirit.
WomenHeart Support Networks also provide peer-to-peer support for women living with heart disease and those who’ve experienced a heart attack. Led by trained patient volunteers, these support groups meet monthly and provide education with an emphasis on secondary prevention, as well as psychological and emotional support. All support meetings are done online, so you can talk in real time to other women living with heart disease from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
SisterMatch also connects women with volunteers who can provide one-on-one peer support via telephone or email, or in person.
4. Get support on social media
Facebook has a number of active heart attack support groups for survivors. Browse the “groups” area and find the one that feels right for you. The HealthfulChat website also offers a heart disease support community where you can get to know others in forums, social networks, and chat rooms.
5. Build your own support network
Find others who’ve experienced a heart attack and start to build a personal support team. You may have met people who survived a heart attack while undergoing treatment or know someone through family and friends. Reach out to them and inquire if they’d like to form a support group. If you already have a personal connection, they may be more amenable to sharing experiences and coping strategies.
Sometimes it’s not easy to acknowledge that you need help because it feels like a way of surrendering control. Understand that fear and feeling helpless is normal after a heart attack. Welcome the support of family and friends. Doing so will help you make the most of your second chance at life.