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By Isabelle Banin
Following her six-hour open heart surgery in 2006, Marla Cowan felt profound sadness unlike anything she had experienced before.
“I would break into tears for no apparent reason,” Cowan said. “I would be writing thank you notes to friends and words would be missing from the sentence. It was as if my brain had been altered.”
Dealing with heart disease is tough enough on its own. When depression is added into the mix, patients sometimes struggle more to improve their heart health and are at an increased risk of having another heart attack. It’s a two-way street: if you have one you’re more likely to have the other.
Luckily, patients suffering from both conditions are able to make full recoveries. Emotional support and professional psychological treatment go hand-in-glove with standard cardiovascular care.
Cowan reached out to WomenHeart, a national organization with local support groups and educational resources. Support groups were also instrumental in Cowan’s fight against breast cancer 30 years earlier.
“Listening to other women talk about their journey and their recovery gave me hope that I, too, could overcome,” she said.
To empower other women recovering from heart disease, Cowan began volunteering with WomenHeart in 2009.
We asked Joshua Loew, MD, Cowan’s cardiologist, how to help yourself or a loved one managing both psychological and heart health:
Find a specialist at NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute for any heart-related concern, and visit Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences if you are also struggling with mental health. For further emotional support, reach out to WomenHeart’s Chicagoland or Mended Hearts Evanston/Chicago chapter. WomenHeart also offers a virtual group and one-on-one support options.