Heart failure experts provide tips on coping

A webinar on improving your heart and mental health and coping with the impact of COVID-19

This webinar offers timely practical guidance from people with lived experience and healthcare professionals regarding COVID-19, related conditions and rehabilitation.

In support of the 2nd National Heart Failure Awareness Week in partnership with Canadian Heart Failure Society, this one-hour presentation focuses on practical self-care knowledge and skills for managing the psychological impact of heart failure.

Through the story of lived experience and expert advice, the webinar also addresses the psychological needs of people living with heart failure and their caregivers during and after COVID-19.


Key guidance from our speakers
Heather Lannon, heart failure caregiver and HeartLife Champion +
  • "It’s OK to not be OK”. Some days no matter what tip or trick you use, you can’t get rid of the fear. Bad days will happen. But if your bad days are outnumbering your good days, it’s a good idea to check in and see if you’d benefit from more help.
  • “Laughter is the best medicine.” Using humour is a good coping mechanism.
  • Write down one good thing every day. It could be a piece of good news, a beautiful day, a good book read – remind yourself that there’s always something good happening.
  • As caregivers, it’s so important that we take care of ourselves, and sometimes you really need a break. Do something to recharge yourself; it will help you keep perspective. 
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, it can feel isolating, but people are still available virtually. Contact your care provider and set up a time to ensure everything’s okay or call a family member for support. Even just having that conversation can reduce anxiety. 
  • You’ve all survived things most others can’t even imagine: you’re a superhero. You will get through this and it will pass.
Karen Harkness, assistant clinical professor, McMaster University +
  • Symptoms of depression and anxiety are more common in people with heart failure than in the general public. Depression and heart failure are partners in crime, each puts you at risk of developing the other.
  • Educate those close to you. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and anxious, but your friends and family can and will help.
  • Two major signs of depression: low, sad mood, and loss of enjoyment in regularly enjoying activities for more than two weeks. It’s not easy to talk about, but get the conversation going – it’s the best thing you can do.
  • The best evidence of successful therapy is a combination of physical activity paired with cognitive behavioural therapy, and to potentially add an SSRI (drug) if needed.
  • Some people with heart failure have cognitive deficits which tend to be subtle, and hard to diagnose without testing. Cognitive impairment is when there is a deficit in one or more “thinking” functions.
  • Mild impairment doesn’t impact your main, daily activities but you may have trouble organizing, remembering, and concentrating. It also may take longer to learn things or perform self-care tasks, but that’s OK, there is help.

Karen is a clinical strategist at CorHealth Ontario as well as a member of the Canadian Heart Failure Society.

Justin Noppé, brain performance coach +
  • Focus and attention from the brain comes with our emotional connection with things; the more we can connect with it emotionally, the more we can predict a cognitive result. If you remember music – try and relate all your experiences with music, connect it with things that naturally engage your brain.
  • Slow down. You can’t focus if you’re trying to do things fast. There is a slower, deliberate system in the brain that allows for focus. 
  • Externalize the mind. Speak it out loud (singing, whispering, changing volume/rhythm) – it will all help! Or write it down – your brain doesn’t have to manage it anymore once it’s written down.
  • When we are more stressed, we see a 30% decline in cognitive processing. When we are removed from stress, we’re able to process again. Try skewed HRV breathing: breathe in one count, breathe out for two. 10-15 minutes of this will greatly increase cognition.
  • Stillness practice – this includes meditation but also beyond. It’s been shown that visualization during stillness practice can increase a skill by skill 23% versus 24% of actual physical practice!
  • To increase feelings of positivity, make it social! Telling, sharing and including not only helps with memory, but also makes you feel better. The more you can smile about, the more you’ll increase your connection and fulfillment.
A special thanks to our speakers and collaborators +

A big thank you to all our partner organizations for helping to lead the annual National Heart Failure Awareness! #HeartFailureWeekCan

Heart & Stroke is conducting a 5-minute survey to better understand the needs of those discharged from the hospital following a heart failure event.

If you’d like to participate, please click here.

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