When the people we love are suffering, it can be heartbreaking to watch. Nobody likes to see their partner, parents, friends or family members going through struggle. Health issues are especially concerning, because we know that underneath the problem can be a real, serious threat. And for many people suffering from heart disease, that threat is an early death.
It’s distressing stuff.
Then there’s the secondary issue: what if this person you love is sick, but isn’t doing anything to help themselves? What if they are still caught up in their destructive lifestyle and bad habits, and don’t seem able to create real change? What do you do when you are absolutely petrified of losing them, but they don’t seem able to help themselves?
I understand this fear all too well. My journey to becoming the Heart Health Concierge began with this exact circumstance. For me, it was my Dad. As all daughters out there know, fathers can be very stubborn, difficult creatures from time to time (sorry Dad!). Despite my subtle attempts to get him to put the soda, candy and cigarettes down, he continued to live with some very unhealthy habits for a long time. Until one day, his cardiologist told him that he was in trouble. Diagnosed with blockages in three of his arteries, things suddenly got very serious.
He was a ticking time-bomb.
Being a cardiac perfusionist for nearly two decades, I knew exactly what he should be doing. I was able to jump in and explain the scientific ‘babble’ to him. I could develop an exercise and eating plan for him that still suited his lifestyle (Red wine? Check! Regular massages and relaxation? Double check!). I could talk him through the mindset changes that needed to happen to make these changes stick. Permanently.
And the results? Well, in a matter of mere moths, Dad lost 60 pounds, his cardiac numbers returned to normal and his shortness of breath disappeared. His rapid recovery and transformation even had his highly trained cardiologist amazed.
But even better than a clean bill of heart health, Dad regained a whole side of his life that he thought he’d lost. Little things that had slipped away so slowly at the time he hadn’t noticed, but which now were returning to him. Like not having to worry about taking the stairs. Like no longer retaining masses of fluid and having swollen feet and joints. Like looking forward to a long, healthy, hope-filled future.
Because there is hope! And if my stubborn, cigarette-smoking baby-boomer father can do it, anyone can.
So what should you do if someone you love has been diagnosed with heart disease? Here are my top five tips.
Be present and supportive. This sort of health scare can bring up so many emotional issues. For many people, it’s the first time they’ve faced their own mortality. Your first job as their spouse/friend/family member is to listen to them wholeheartedly. Be completely present, without judgment, to talk through any emotional issues that they are going through. Steer clear of lecturing, though. Just listen with loving ears.
Do your research. Knowledge is power. There are so many wonderful resources out there that can help to educate you about heart health (this blog is a great place to start!). Arming yourself with information can help you better understand what they are going through and better support them in making lifestyle changes.
Connect them with their tribe. It’s so important for people to realize that they are not alone in their struggle, and there are so many others out there on the same journey. In fact, in the United States alone, 26.5 million people are living with heart disease, with one million suffering from a heart attack each year. Social support is really important in the healing process, so help your loved one to join a support group, an exercise group, an online community or an email list. Hearing others’ stories – and getting the chance to share their own – can be an excellent step in the right direction.
Lead by example. Ultimately, we cannot force change onto other people, no matter how much we would like to, or how much we believe that we are right (!). As the wise-and-wonderful Ghandi said, we should be the change we wish to see in the world. In a health context, this means that the best way to encourage someone else to live a healthy lifestyle is to live one yourself. Be the glowing, radiant whole-food loving person, and let your loved one see how happy and satisfied you are in your lifestyle choices. Before you know it, they just might be asking you to share your secret!
Help them get the right help. Let your loved one know that they don’t have to navigate these scary waters without a guide. Having an expert who’s got their back, who’s got the time and knowledge to explain the nitty-gritty details, and who’s got a step-by-step game plan to get them back in action can be the difference between continuing to tread water, and making giant strides towards wellness. This is where a qualified and experienced cardiac health coach comes into play. They can provide expert advice as well as be your loved one’s personal cheerleader (and even give them a gentle kick up the behind when needed!). And for many, this personalized guidance is the key to creating real change and seeing real results.
Is someone close to you struggling with their heart health? Share away in the comments below?!
Rosemarie Beltz is the creator and director of the Heart Health Concierge, a prestige health coaching service offering heart-smart health advice to clients all around the world. As a cardiac perfusionist for more than 18 years (currently practicing in a hospital in Los Angeles, California) and certified health coach (graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York City), she is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the world of western medicine and holistic health. You can connect with Rosemarie at the Heart Health Concierge [www.rosemariebeltz.com], on facebook at [https://www.facebook.com/hearthealthconcierge] follow her on Twitter [https://twitter.com/marprana] and Youtube [https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-X8APOL12PU1SI0-A3ICJG].