Take Heart: Online Support Group Helps Those with Cardiovascular Disease

Sponsored by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the Support Network allows people to share stories and reach out about their experiences with heart disease and stroke.

A good diet, exercise, and access to medical care are all important factors in the physical recovery from heart disease and stroke, but a new resource from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) aims to help in the emotional recovery process as well.

Much like a face-to-face support group, the Support Network connects people and their family members who may be living with heart disease and stroke in an online forum where they can ask questions, share their concerns and fears, and find helpful tips, encouragement, and inspiration.

“We’ve always used research to guide our clinical recommendations for treating patients,” Barry J. Jacobs, an AHA/ASA volunteer and director of behavioral sciences at the Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Program, said in a statement. “With more science showing a need for social and emotional support, it’s a logical step to add this to our resources to help people live healthier. Who can offer better perspective on what lies ahead after a heart disease or stroke diagnosis than someone who’s been there?”

Heart attack survivors with low social support—friends and family who can serve as confidants and companions as well as offer material and financial support—are more likely to exhibit poorer health  and quality of life and more depressive symptoms, according to recent research.

When her son was diagnosed with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, a condition in which the right side of the heart is underdeveloped, Catherine Clinkscales felt alone and didn’t know where to turn, she told The Tennessean.

After reaching out to AHA, Clinkscales eventually became a volunteer leader for a pilot support network in Nashville, which along with programs in Phoenix and St. Louis is working to broaden the services of the online network. Future planned activities include community-based face-to-face support groups and training programs for volunteers who can serves as leaders in the both the online and community networks.

“The Support Network offers a place for people to find and share emotional support from others going through similar journeys,” Jacobs said. “Sharing stories, experiences, and practical advice can make a positive impact in how we face these challenges.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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