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February 14, 2012 > Heart Month

Heart Month

Submitted By Nancy Shelvy

February is American Heart Month, an ideal time to remind Bay Area residents of the unique benefits of heart patient-to-patient services, according to The Mended Hearts, Inc., a national and local community-based heart patient organization. Increasing medical evidence points to the value of emotional support to heart patients during the critical time when they are in the hospital.

Locally, Mended Hearts members visit patients at Kaiser hospitals in Hayward and Fremont and the patient-to-patient service is the core of their visits. Heart patient volunteers, specifically trained and accredited by Mended Hearts, make hospital visits to heart patients either before or after their procedure. Most visits are to surgery patients, but visits are increasingly to patients diagnosed with angina, hypertension or heart attack who don't need surgery.

Besides offering encouragement, the trained visitors also provide educational information such as recommendations for healthy lifestyle choices and tips for medication adherence and offer suggestions for managing depression, common after a heart event. Evidence shows that depression and low social support are associated with higher morbidity and mortality for patients with coronary heart disease.

Evidence also shows that social support, particularly from a peer, can help. People often place more credibility in the words of those who have had the same health issues.

Most visits are conducted in person but on line and phone visits are also an option, according to Irene Vollbrecht, president of the local chapter. "We encourage patients to join us for our regular chapter meetings for peer support and to hear guest speakers talk about topics relevant to heart patients."

Mended Hearts, celebrating its 60 years of service, may be reached locally at 792-4642.

(The Mended Hearts, now aligned with the American College of Cardiology, is a national volunteer-based organization that offers peer-to-peer support to heart patients. With 300 local chapters nationwide, Mended Hearts partners with 0ver 460 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics and offers services to heart patients through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums.)

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