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Patricia’s heart health journey: from the attack to the recovery

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Patricia van den Ende was walking in her yard when she noticed her breathing getting shorter and shorter. Eventually she realized what was happening.

“Finally, I said to myself aloud, ‘You are having a heart attack,’ ” recalls van den Ende from her home in Rossport, Ontario. She was having an experience common to about 60,000 Canadians in 2017 — a first heart attack.1

One of her first reactions was confusion. Van den Ende had believed her heart health was in good shape. “It was really a shock to me that I had a heart attack,” she says.

The memory of the difficult and confusing days after her own heart attack motivated van den Ende to help others who find themselves in a similar situation. She served as a patient consultant on the development of the My HeartPathTM app from Amgen Canada. Available for iPhone and Android mobile devices, it’s a digital tool that guides survivors of heart attacks on the first year of their journey back to good heart health.

Amgen contacted van den Ende and invited her to share her experiences while the app was being developed. While she was glad to have a chance to share some insights, she’s careful to note that patients recovering from a heart attack all follow different recovery journeys.

That said, some roadblocks on the way back to heart health are common to many patients.

A tool for heart attack recovery

One is uncertainty over where to turn for information and guidance. Van den Ende, for her part, says she didn’t know where to turn for help in the days and weeks after her heart attack. “I had zero resources.”

Dr. Beth Abramson, a cardiologist who was involved in the planning of MyHeartPathTM, says the app will help patients start to answer the questions that arise in those early, emotionally difficult days following a cardiac event.

“It’s absolutely paramount that you have a plan and an understanding of your journey,” she says, and that can start “from Day One, leaving the hospital.”

Setting goals for heart health

“I liked the fact that there were goals,” van den Ende says. Patients can use My HeartPathTM to track a number of health indicators: “Your LDL cholesterol levels, blood sugar, achieving a healthier weight, strong bones — all the way down the list to reducing stress and improving sleep.”

Van den Ende notes that My HeartPathTM users can tailor the goals to meet their own needs. That means survivors can motivate themselves back to heart health by achieving realistic objectives along the way. “It doesn’t matter what the milestone is, if you’ve decided something is your goal and you meet it, you have success,” she says.

Heart health reminders

My HeartPathTM reminds users of their goals, as well as prompting them to take their medication prompts. Dr. Abramson says she hopes the app will encourage recovering patients to adopt healthy habits in the short and long term.

“It helps patients navigate a complex system with appointment reminders, lifestyle reminders and medication reminders,” she says.

Talking to your doctor

“I really like the fact that there’s a chart where you can say, ’OK, my next doctor’s appointment is going to be here,’ ” van den Ende says. By keeping appointments in mind, users can prepare to make the most of their time talking with their healthcare professionals.

“Living with heart disease is complicated,” Dr. Abramson says. “You need to know which questions to ask to make sure your journey is healthy and productive as a patient.”

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My HeartPathTM is simple, even if the journey isn’t

When she finally got a chance to open up My HeartPath™ for the first time, van den Ende says she appreciated how easy it was to use.

“I like the way the app looks, with the pathway and the dots. When I saw that, I thought, "Oh yes, we're on a path here. We're going to go on a journey. And where I am today, I am not going to be in three months.”

As for her own journey, van den Ende says she’s proud that it led to being a part of something that will help people on their journey back to heart health.

“Anybody would feel good about that,” van den Ende says. And she predicts users will feel good using it, too. “A person who comes into the app for the first time, I suspect, will find the exact same thing I did — somebody is listening.”

Read more: 8 tips for your heart health journey: A guide for heart attack survivors

 

  1. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/heart-disease-canada-fact-sheet.html — see section “Who has heart disease in Canada?”

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