Recovery from a heart attack or other cardiac event can be physically daunting but many don’t realize that it can be emotionally challenging for survivors as well. My Cardiac Coach™, a free app from the American Heart Association, helps survivors with their recovery goals and includes a tool that provides tips and resources to help them find support for emotional well-being.
“It hit me hard,” says Jennifer Volland, who experienced a heart attack in May 2014 and underwent coronary bypass surgery. “At the hospital, I was watched constantly, but then I came home. At night when the house was quiet, and I would feel the slightest heart flutter, it would throw me into a panic. Three times that year, I went to the ER just out of fear that it was happening again. It took me about six months to get over that—a .lot longer than it took for my chest to heal.”
My Cardiac Coach helps survivors manage their health and stick to their treatment plan. It includes tools for tracking medications, recording health data, and learning about various topics related to heart health. Last year the American Heart Association, with support from Premera Blue Cross, added a section about emotional well-being. Fear, anxiety, anger, loneliness and other emotions are normal for patients to experience after a cardiac event.
Cardiac rehab helped Volland manage the physical and emotional part of heart attack recovery. Her primary care doctor also prescribed an antidepressant for a short time and her emotional state got better with time. Today she wants other heart attack survivors to know that they’re not alone. “Although you’ve joined the ‘club’ you never wanted to join, there is support out there. When my heart attack happened, it really felt like I was the only person in the world. But at the hospital, I realized that there was a whole floor of people going through the same thing.”
The emotional well-being section of My Cardiac Coach takes users through a questionnaire and connects them with resources such as the American Heart Association’s Online Support Network. For survivors who are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it’s important to discuss these with their health care team and make a plan for addressing or managing these conditions. Premera, a health insurance provider, recommends that survivors check mental health benefits covered by their insurance plan.
My Cardiac Coach is a free app from the American Heart Association and is available on Google Play and Apple’s App Store. For more information, visit heart.org/mycardiaccoach.
The American Heart Association contributed this article.