The benefits of health coaching for sustaining patient activation in patients with heart disease
Heart disease, also referred to as Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) or Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), is the leading cause of death for both men and women and responsible for approximately 610,000 deaths annually. Someone has a heart attack every 43 seconds in the United States and of those, 1 in 4 will die. Although the rate of mortality (death) has declined over the past few decades as a result of improved medical therapies, a staggering 30% of heart attacks annually are in people that have already had a previous heart event and face increased risk of dying.
Ongoing risks associated with heart disease
There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing heart disease such as diabetes, overweight/obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use. Depression is also highly prevalent after a heart attack with 20-45% patients reporting significant depression which can be worsened by family distress, anger or hostility. Fear can be a common motivator for patients just after experiencing a heart event and this helps them to remain engaged in cardiac rehab. However, once they are discharged and return to their normal daily lives, it can be easy to forget the ongoing risks for future events. A common misperception is that once a patient undergoes surgery for their heart and/or completes cardiac rehab that they are “cured” of heart disease. There is no cure for heart disease and prevention and management of this disease requires participation in a healthy lifestyle forever.
Benefits of a health coach
A health coach can be crucial to supporting the patient throughout the lifespan as they struggle with time management, financial stress, work demands and emotional struggles. Although the ability to maintain an active lifestyle is the #1 predictor of death, very rarely is the dialogue between the health coach and the patient focused on nutrition and exercise, but rather common barriers that patients face when maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The role of a health coach can be instrumental in educating patients on why it is so important to stay engaged in ongoing lifestyle management to prevent future heart events.
A health coach can help a patient focus on any of the following aspects as it relates to managing their heart disease:
- Managing the stress of normal daily life and learning to integrate relaxation techniques that can minimize stress on the heart
- Understand how to remain physically active and engage in healthy eating and how each of these aspects can improve the health of their heart and prevent future complications
- Support work life balance and finding the time to focus on their health
- Engaging family and caregivers in the ongoing process of managing heart disease and help all individuals involved in their life to engage in healthy supportive behavior
- Successfully navigate new barriers and challenges that can knock them off track such as loss of a job, divorce, new health diagnosis or death of a loved one.
Health coaches are specifically trained to focus on the individual needs of their clients with the ultimate goal of helping every individual remain actively engaged in their health. They can provide great comfort during a time of uncertainty and stress and be the key to providing stability during unstable life circumstances. The role of the health coach will likely evolve over time and there are times that patients require more frequent support. For this reason, care navigation is a key component to the health coaching role whereby they can help patients seek out the services of other healthcare providers should the need of any patient exceed their scope of expertise.
To find a certified health coach near you that can specialize in helping you manage or prevent heart disease, please search the MFN database. Don’t find one near you? Reach out to MFN directly and their incredible support staff will help you connect with expert coaches in your area.
- Center for Disease Control (CDC). Retrieved: http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
- Satoru Kodama, Kazumi Saito, Shiro Tanaka, Miho Maki, Yoko Yachi, Mihoko Asumi, Ayumi Sugawara, Kumiko Totsuka, Hitoshi Shimano, Yasuo Ohashi, Nobuhiro Yamada, and Hirohito Sone. (2009). Cardiorespiratory Fitness as a Quantitative Predictor of All-Cause Mortality and Cardiovascular Events in Healthy Men and Women. JAMA. Vol. 301(19):2024-2035. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.681.
- Vale, M.J., Jelinek, M.V., Best, J.D., Dart, A.M., Grigg, L.E., Hare, D.L., Ho, B.P., Newman, R.W., & McNeil, J.J. (2003). Coaching patients on achieving cardiovascular health (COACH); A Multicenter Randomized Trial in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease. Arch Intern Med. Vol 163(22):2775-2783. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.22.2775
- Wegner, N.K. (2008). Current status of cardiac rehabilitation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Vol 51, Issue 17, pp. 1619-1631.