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Learning to Live with Heart Disease

Millions of people diagnosed with heart disease enjoy active, satisfying lives. By using your mind to help your body, obtaining appropriate medical care, and making changes in your lifestyle, you can learn to live life to the fullest despite your condition.

These steps can help you take charge of your heart health and your life:

Learn all you can

Empower yourself. Start thinking and acting proactively. Learn about your condition, treatment options, and the steps you can take to make your therapy a success. Take responsibility for doing all you can to positively affect your health.

Choose the right doctor. This is one of the most important medical decisions you'll make. Ask friends and medical professionals for recommendations, then check the doctor's background. Follow your intuition. Don't go to a doctor if you have doubts about his or her training, track record, or manner.

Make the most of your doctor visits. Write down a list of your concerns before your appointment, then ask your most important questions first. 

Follow your doctor's instructions. For example, he or she may recommend you quit smoking, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, control diabetes, eat a low-fat diet, or exercise regularly. Making these lifestyle changes may reverse the progression of heart disease and reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke.

Plan ahead

Have an emergency plan. Ask your doctor which symptoms you should watch for and what you should do if they appear. Call 911 or your local emergency-response number if you believe you're having a heart attack or stroke.

Involve your family. Heart disease affects your family, too, and having their support can help you make necessary lifestyle changes more easily. Ask family members to learn about your condition. Take them to one of your doctor appointments and let them ask questions about your treatment.

Join a support group. Ask your doctor, hospital community service liaison, or your local affiliate of the American Heart Association to recommend a heart patient group in your area. These groups vary in their character and objectives, so plan on visiting a few of them before deciding which one is right for you.