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A Heart Does Not Beat Alone

Coronary artery disease (CAD), in its various forms, is listed as America's leading cause of death (American Heart Association, 1996). CAD accounts for nearly one million fatalities and five million hospitalizations each year (Braunwald, 1997). CAD is associated with unpredictable daily variations in functional capacity, and it always carries the threat of death. As such, CAD may be the most debilitating of all chronic disorders (American Heart Association, 1996). Cardiovascular disease exacts a huge financial and emotional toll on afflicted individuals and the public at large.

In his recent book, Thriving With Heart Disease (2003) Dr. Wayne Sotile suggests that some partners/families flounder in anger and confusion in the aftermath of heart disease while others bounce back, reclaim hope, and continue to find meaning in life. Rachel Freed in her book Heartmates (2002) offers several quideposts to help partners/families create a new foundation of meaning in their lives.

  • Give yourself permission to be vulnerable and human, to grieve.
  • Consider the efficacy of prayer, spirituality, and religious affiliation.
  • Find meaning in adversity. Crisis offers us an awakening.

Finally, Dr Sotile, in a earlier book, Heart Illness and Intimacy (1992), suggests the following ways to help your relationship with a significant other become a "healthy, healing partnership."

  • Nurture and care for each other
  • Know that relationships grow and change.
  • Take responsibility to be honest in the relationship.
  • Let others know you value your partner.
  • Be more gentle and forgiving in your relationship.
  • Keep the spirit of healing alive.
  • Attend to intimacy needs in the relationship.

Should you decide a therapist might be helpful in working through difficult issues, appendix B in Dr. Sotile's 1992 book offers a list of facts to help you select an appropriate professional (see the Books of Interest section of this website under Chronic Illness and Relationships).

John J. Zarski, Ph.D.
Staff Psychologist

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