Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Supporting the Emotional Health of You and Your Family After a Heart Attack/Stroke Happens

Go Red for Women by the American Heart Association does an excellent job promoting the signs and symptoms of an impending heart attack or stroke in women, and every year I enjoy helping to share that information. Go Red Day this year will be on February 1st and I always look forward to choosing that perfect red clothing item to sport all day long!

This year though, I have a particular issue about women's heart health that has continued to get my attention, and I'd like to take some time to shed some light on it. At the Mrs. International Pageant in July 2012, a very brave woman spoke at our orientation meeting, telling us not only about her heart attack experience, but also how it affected her and her family emotionally after she was in recovery. She described the difficult time that they all had dealing with the traumatic event of her heart attack because the fear of losing a mom and a wife just doesn't go away with recovery -- it's something that sticks with a family and increases the stress a family has about normal every day activities.

Of course being a family mental health advocate, this really made an impact on me, and I realized that not enough emphasis has been put on helping a family deal with the emotions of recovery. Families go through trauma when a heart attack or stroke strikes a loved female in the family. Trauma does not go away just because the person's medical condition gets better -- the fear and anxiety stick with you and can be a debilitating cloud hovering over everything. But not only are we talking about mental recovery from trauma, but also from the number of medicines that were pumped into the body in order to save a life. Withdrawal from anesthetics or pain medication can bring a host of emotional troubles including crying spells/depression, angry outbursts, and social withdrawal -- not to mention the number of ongoing prescriptions that are required for heart recovery with the side effects that they weild.

I do know that SAMHSA has created some initiatives that address this very concern, so it gives me hope that this is a growing issue of concern in the field of mental health. If you are looking for specific information about mental recovery after a heart attack or stroke, I really like the hearthealthywomen.org site. Even though I do my part in trying to share information to prevent heart attack and stroke in women, I believe now that it is equally as important to provide support to those in recovery -- not just celebrating recovery, but understanding the emotional depth of it too.

Have a great day of celebration on Friday and wear your red proudly for prevention AND recovery in women's heart health.

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