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Staying Healthy Online: Internet Support Groups
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Surfing the web to combat isolation

When you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you may instantly feel completely alone. The feeling is, of course, totally illogical, when you consider that heart disease is the most common health ailment among women, so you’re hardly alone — but, then again, sometimes it is hard to be completely logical when you are going through a major life change.

In August 2009, a study published by the American Psychosomatic Society found that there was a direct correlation between loneliness and coronary heart disease, meaning that women with existing heart disease could be at increased risk of future heart-related complications, along with depression and anxiety. Your world has been completely been turned upside-down and you are suddenly juggling multiple prescription medications, dietary restrictions, and extreme fatigue, and it feels like there is no-one out there who truly understands you any more.

Luckily, in our networked society, there are many ways that you can connect with other women who are dealing with the same heart health issues — they may be around the corner or halfway around the world, but are really only as far away as the click of a mouse. If you don’t have a computer available to you at home or at work, consider heading to your local public library or community center to get online. A 2007 study in Great Britain showed that heart patients who were given access to information and
communication via the Internet were more likely to participate in healthy behaviors.

Check out the resources below that can help you get connected and stay on track with a heart-healthy lifestyle:

• Get inspired: WomenHeart’s online support community, hosted by the Inspire network, is a great place where women can connect with each other to provide support and trade stories, news, and information. And, of course, membership is absolutely free. Join here.

• Talk to your health care provider: Many hospitals and health care professionals offer online support with nurses and nutritionists who can help you adjust to new regimens or answer any questions or concerns about medications, diet, and exercise. WomenHeart's National Hospital Alliance also helps establish women's heart disease support groups in communities across the United States: Find a WomenHeart Support Network in your community.

• Seek specific support: There are many groups out there which provide support networks for people with very specific heart health issues, such as adult congenital heart disease or SCAD. It can be truly helpful to connect with others whose experience really mirrors your own, so try typing in your specific condition into your browser’s search engine to find others out there who share your condition and see if there are support groups available for you to join.

• Find your Heart Sister: By filling out a simple questionnaire, WomenHeart can help you find your Sister Match. Through this free service, we’ll match you up with a Heart Sister who is in your geographic area, is the same age, or shares similar health concerns. You can choose to stay in touch via phone, email, or even meet in person — the most important thing is to simply make the connection with someone who can be there for you on both the good and bad days.

Resources:

Mayo Clinic: Make connections, get help

WebMD: Heart Disease Support and Resources

Support Groups for Seniors

Small Social Circles Tied to Heart Disease Death in Women

Lonely Planet

Women, Loneliness, and Incident Coronary Heart Disease

Image courtesy of healthista.com
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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the 42 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.