Heart failure tools: Support groups and how they can benefit you

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Heart failure is on the rise in Canada. It’s often the last stop for people who have experienced a journey through cardiovascular disease, according to a 2016 report on The Burden of Heart Failure, published by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Regardless of whether you’re aged 18 or 68 being diagnosed with heart failure and discovering that there is currently no cure for this chronic illness, is a shocking thing to hear. It can cause a mix of many different emotions as you start to envision the impact of this diagnosis on your life.

Heart failure is often misunderstood by the public, and this can make speaking out about the illness quite difficult for patients. In 2016, a poll by the Heart and Stroke Foundation revealed that “more than a quarter of Canadians believe that heart failure means your heart has completely stopped beating” and “one fifth mistakenly believe that it is a part of aging.” In fact, heart failure means your heart is damaged or weakened (failing), not failed, and it can affect people of all ages.

It’s normal to feel anxious

“Early diagnosis, lifestyle changes, and appropriate drug treatments can help you lead a normal and active life, stay out of hospital, and live longer,” as stated in the Heart and Stroke Foundation report. That’s the crucial thing to remember – heart failure can be managed. And you’re the most important person in managing your illness.

Nevertheless, it’s normal to feel stressed or anxious about how heart failure is going to affect you and your future. According to Health E-University’s Cardiac College, “feeling a loss of control can have the same effect on your heart as actually having the bad things that you fear happen.”

The Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research notes that over time, as you “learn more about the condition [heart failure],” feelings of worry and anxiety will “subside.” However, if your “stress or worry seems out of control and is interfering with your daily life, you should speak to someone about it.”

Although you might feel like you want to be alone, getting support and help from others can be invaluable to helping you understand and manage your diagnosis.

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Support groups

Talking to friends, family, and loved ones is an important part of living with heart failure. In addition, the emotional support gained from speaking to others with similar experiences can be very reassuring and helpful.

Depression and Heart Failure: Can Support Groups Reduce Depressive Symptoms?, an article by nurse practitioner, Estrella-Holder, published by the University of Manitoba’s Cardiac Sciences Program, states that support groups “may have beneficial effects in having members providing psychological support to each other.” It notes that members may improve their feelings of “wellbeing” and possibly “reduce depressive symptoms” by engaging with others in “similar situations.”

At the HeartLife Foundation, we run a closed, private support group on Facebook.

It’s a safe place for individuals living with heart failure, and their loved ones to ask questions, share information, and learn about the latest heart failure research. All members live with or have been impacted by heart failure and can talk freely about their experiences with others who understand.

We believe that a positive attitude, friendly support, and consistent encouragement, can help improve self-management of heart failure, which, in turn, can offer an improved quality of life.


IF YOU’RE LIVING WITH HEART FAILURE, OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS THIS CHRONIC ILLNESS, CLICK HERE TO VISIT OUR CLOSED FACEBOOK SUPPORT GROUP AND JOIN THE CONVERSATION.