LOS ANGELES, Sept. 29, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A doctor she'd never met walked into Cathy Aumack-Bandy's hospital room in January 2013 and told her husband that she had severe heart failure and should get her affairs in order. She initially thought he was in the wrong room. Her next thought was that she needed to switch doctors.
"He never even addressed me," said Aumack-Bandy, a former psychologist from Ruskin, Florida. "Prior to this heart failure diagnosis, I had been a healthy 54-year-old. Now, it felt like he was sending me home to die."
Aumack-Bandy is one of the nearly six million Americans living with heart failure, or HF, a chronic, lifelong condition in which the heart can't pump enough blood around the body. There are important symptoms to recognize, including difficulty breathing, fatigue and swelling of the feet, ankles and legs, but oftentimes people don't notice them, and if they do, they may mistake them as signs of other conditions or simply old age.
Helping people understand and better manage their heart failure is the focus of the American Heart Association's Rise Above Heart Failure disease awareness and education initiative.
Entering its second year, the initiative provides an increased focus on patient-provider relationships, as well as relevant and real-life management tools for patient and their caregivers. Just launched is the My HF Guide, a new interactive workbook that includes videos, printable tips, symptom trackers and more to better prepare patients to ask the right questions and have a helpful dialogue with healthcare providers during doctors' visits.
"Establishing a bond of mutual respect and good communication with your doctor is crucial when dealing with a complex medical condition like heart failure," said Mariell Jessup, M.D., a former president of the American Heart Association and a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "If patients have to follow a complex regimen and they don't understand why, or the consequences of missing some pills or not recognizing new symptoms, they're not going to do well."
Award-winning actress, singer, songwriter and television producer Queen Latifah remembers the initial shock of hearing about her mother's heart failure diagnosis, as well as the challenges her family faced in helping manage her condition. It's why she has joined with the Rise Above Heart Failure initiative to raise awareness among patients, caregivers and healthcare providers.
"It's important for heart failure patients and caregivers to talk to their doctor and ask the right questions, because there are steps they can take to manage the condition," Queen Latifah said. "A lot of people mistake the signs of heart failure as just getting older; I know my mom did. But if you have symptoms like feeling short of breath when you bend down to put on your shoes, or have trouble sleeping at night without a bunch of pillows – don't think 'old age'. Think 'heart failure' and be sure to talk to your doctor."
To help mark World Heart Day, Queen Latifah will kick off a series of Facebook Live events hosted at UCLA Health today, recognizing the many heart failure heroes across the country who are taking steps every day to "rise above" heart failure. In particular, she is paying special thanks to the many members of the UCLA healthcare teams who have helped take care of her mom over the years.
"I am thrilled to join Queen Latifah and the American Heart Association in this exciting event to create awareness about the important relationship between heart failure patients and their doctors," said Karol E. Watson, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of Medicine/Cardiology and Co-director, of the UCLA Program in Preventive Cardiology. "I hope those watching will learn some key insights that will educate patients, and their loved ones, on how to manage their condition."
LA-based TV/radio personality and blogger RaqC, an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, volunteer, will moderate the Facebook Live event with Queen and Dr. Watson.
After the discouraging meeting with her first doctor, Aumack-Bandy found a new doctor she felt more comfortable with and she's built a medical team that's helped her take back her life and her confidence. She and other heart failure patients will share their stories during a second Facebook Live event focusing on their personal experiences and learnings. A third Facebook event will feature representatives from the Association of Black Cardiologists, the Heart Failure Society of America and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association, members of the Rise Above Heart Failure Alliance that is working together to address the growing healthcare crisis.
Join the events throughout the day on the Facebook Event page.
Queen Latifah is especially excited to "step up" her advocacy efforts by working with the American Heart Association on the "Red Steps Challenge," a national movement that encourages Americans to take a proactive approach to heart health by putting on their favorite pair of red socks, sharing a photo and "donating" the steps they are taking to "rise above" heart failure on RiseAboveHF.org.
"I really just want the millions of Americans who are touched by heart failure to share their story – and their 'red steps' – and to speak up about the condition," Queen Latifah said. "There's so much information out there – treatment guidelines for doctors, easy-to-use tools for patients and their families. With the right education and support, we can all rise above heart failure."
Rise Above Heart Failure is nationally supported by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is one of the world's oldest and largest voluntary organizations dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, visit www.heart.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the association's science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at www.heart.org/corporatefunding.
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SOURCE American Heart Association