According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently 26.8 million Americans who have been diagnosed with heart disease–that’s 12% of Americans. Heart disease includes a variety of conditions related to the heart, such as heart attack, coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, and congestive heart failure. WebMD notes that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.
Managing heart disease can mean undergoing major lifestyle changes. There is no quick fix for heart disease–but there’s a lot you can do to manage the disease and live healthier to reduce the risk of your heart disease worsening. You don’t have to make these changes alone, either. You can enlist an advocate to help you. Your employer may offer an advocacy service as part of your employee benefits package; you might seek out a consumer-based advocacy service such as Health Proponent; or you could simply designate a trusted family member or friend to help you better manage your heart disease. Check out the many ways an advocate can help you in this situation:
* An advocate can connect you to the proper medical personnel. A primary care physician or a cardiologist can help treat your heart disease. A nutritionist could help you design a low-cholesterol, heart-healthy diet. A wellness coach could help you plan an exercise regimen. If mortality-related thoughts brought about by your heart disease are making you stressed or anxious, a mental health specialist can help you better handle these thoughts.
* An advocate can help make sure that medical providers take your insurance, and they can set up appointments for you or help arrange transportation to and from these appointments.
* Let your advocate help reduce your stress by having them handle a number of financial issues for you, such as researching pricing for medical procedures and services as well as negotiating costs of medical treatment with insurance companies and medical providers.
* The advocate can also help you by reducing your insurance-related stress. If your insurance company says they won’t pay for a treatment or procedure, ask your advocate to handle the insurance company’s denial and file an appeal on your behalf.
* Has a medical provider recommended surgery or prescription medication to treat your condition? Your advocate can handle lining up a second opinion for you so that you have the opinions and advice of two medical professionals and can make an informed decision about the type of treatment you’re most comfortable with.
* If you smoke, know that an advocacy program like Health Advocate offers a Tobacco Cessation program as part of their benefits. Quitting smoking will not only save you money, but also has heart-healthy benefits!
* Let your advocate be responsible for reminding you about your yearly checkups and other important health screenings (they can set these appointments up for you, too).
* Some advocacy services offer Nurse Lines that members can take advantage of. Nurse Lines, staffed by registered nurses, often have extended hours and in some cases are available 24/7. Members can call the Nurse Line to talk to the nurses about any strange symptoms they’re having and whether or not those symptoms necessitate a trip to the emergency room, urgent care, or other medical facility.
* An advocate can do the research on experimental heart-related treatments and clinical studies that you may qualify for.
* If you suspect that office-related stress could be contributing to your heart disease, check into whether an EAP + Work/Life service is part of your advocacy company’s benefits. EAP + Work/Life can give you suggestions on how to maintain a better work/life balance that could result in you being less stressed, which is also a heart-healthy change.
Managing your heart disease is a lifelong commitment. It could require years of treatment and a medical team that includes many different medical professionals. This could result in piles of paperwork and bills to sort through, many phone calls to your medical team or insurance company, translating explanations of benefits or doctor-ese, resolving billing errors or insurance claim denials, and having overnight stays in the hospital. All of these things can be intimidating and stressful. You don’t have to endure it alone. Recruit a health advocate to do the leg work for you so that you can focus on being as healthy as possible.
Curious about how a health advocate can help you? Email me with your questions at [email protected]