What to Do After Your Diagnosis
One of the questions that is toughest to answer after diagnosis is what’s next? You have the diagnosis, but you may not have anything else at your disposal or even know where to begin. It is scary, usually unexpected, and can cause some serious mental health issues. Not to mention you have a whole new normal to get used to. There is a lot to do, but no true list and guidance on what order to tackle them. While this is different for everyone, I will share how I handled life after diagnosis and what order I found the most important of items to take care of.
First things first
First, getting medications and equipment to test the effectiveness of the medication. Chances are you are on blood pressure medication. Get a blood pressure cuff. There is no other way to know if your medication is working. Just like a diabetic checks blood sugar, you need to check and log your blood pressure. There are also products to test your blood oxygen level, which is important if your doctor thinks you may be at risk for oxygenation issues. You also want a scale. From now you, take your weight every day. Check out my article “Daily Weights Explained” to see how and why you will do this.
Get your mental health in order
Second, get your mental health in order. It is ok to admit you need help. I get help. A lot of people do. Find a support group first and foremost, even if it is only online. Talking to others will let you know you are not alone and how you feel is normal. Find a therapist or psychiatrist. They can help talk through what you are thinking and work with you on possible medications that can help you cope with the diagnosis. Don’t let the mental health stigma hinder your quality of life.
Diet and exercise habits
Third, work on changing your diet and exercise habits. These are important to keep yourself as healthy as possible for as long as possible. For many, including myself, this was the hardest part. You really just have to commit and do it. It’s like a smoker trying to quit nicotine. A few people can do it cold turkey, but most need to do it gradually. This is the same for diet and exercise. Make small changes and add some each week until you reach the goal that you and your care team have established.
Research to be your own advocate
Lastly, research the life out of this disease. You need to be your own advocate throughout the rest of your life with this disease. The more you know, the more educated decisions you can make with your doctor. If you don’t know what something is, research it until you feel comfortable teaching someone else what it is. It is a matter of life or death sometimes and the worst thing you can do is go through life with this disease not knowing anything about it.
A good starting place
As I said, this list isn’t set in stone in the order you do them, but in my opinion, this is a good starting point. All of these are very important to start as soon as possible and complete to the best of your ability. This is a lifelong disease, and if you can get the basics down in the beginning, you are going to set yourself up for a better experience with this disease.
Do you use exercise to help manage your heart failure?