Cardiac Behavioral Medicine
The Cardiac Behavioral Medicine service was created with the understanding that the mind and body (the heart, in particular) influence each other. The most obvious example of this mind-body connection can be seen in the risk factors for heart disease, most of which can be reduced by altering our behaviors (e.g., increasing exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet and quitting smoking). Our lifestyle behaviors directly influence our heart health. Changing long-standing behaviors, however, can be difficult. Barriers to change often include:
- Limited motivation
- Reduced confidence from prior attempts at change
- Minimal support
- Limited time and resources
- Vague plans about how to proceed.
Our emotions and personality can also impact our cardiac health. Depression, stress, anxiety, hostility, and limited support can increase an individual’s risk of developing heart disease and can worsen the outcome after a cardiac event. For example, some medical studies have found that depressed individuals are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop heart disease than non-depressed persons. Our physiological reaction to stress can also cause wear and tear on the cardiovascular system, ultimately impacting blood pressure, inflammation, coronary artery disease, cardiac events, and arrhythmias. In sum, our emotional health and our lifestyle behaviors influence our heart health.
The reverse is also true—heart health can impact our emotions and stress levels. A diagnosis of valve disease or undergoing heart valve surgery can trigger symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear, or stress. Changes in sleep, appetite, concentration, and diminished interest in pleasurable activities may suggest emotional distress. Identifying and treating the emotional consequences of a cardiac event are important for optimizing the quality of a person’s life and to help maintain the best heart health possible. Because cardiac patients with depressed symptoms are more likely to have poorer medical outcomes, it is important to discuss any changes in mood or stress with your cardiology team.
Cardiac treatment is most successful when it focuses on the physical, emotional, and behavioral health of the patient. Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Center for Heart Valve Disease at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute offers Cardiac Behavioral Medicine services which include comprehensive care in the evaluation and treatment of valve disease by addressing the emotional and behavioral components. Cardiac Behavioral Medicine helps patients and their families adjust to a cardiac diagnosis and provides support and guidance to help patients integrate their heart health into their lives. Patients are educated about the role of emotions and stress in their cardiac health. They are taught new ways of relaxing and coping so that their heart is not harmed by daily stress and hassles. Lifestyle behavior changes are tackled in a supportive setting to help patients achieve their goals of quitting smoking, losing weight or adhering to a new exercise regimen.
Kim L. Feingold, PhD, director of Cardiac Behavioral Medicine and Gail M. Osterman, PhD, specialize in helping cardiovascular patients adjust to a diagnosis and become more resilient throughout the course of treatment. Their techniques include strategies that facilitate behavior change, improve coping strategies, minimize stress, aid with extended hospitalizations and prepare for an upcoming procedure or surgery.
Cardiac Behavioral Medicine is helpful for a variety of presenting issues, including:
- Fear of physical symptoms
- Perfectionistic tendencies
- Adjustment to a medical diagnosis
- Coping with a chronic illness
- Relaxation training
- Smoking cessation
- Behavior changes
- Preparation for an upcoming surgery or procedure.
Various support groups also are available throughout the year.
To schedule an evaluation or inquire about services regarding Cardiac Behavioral Medicine through the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, please call 312-695-4965.