Living with a Chest, Heart or Stroke Condition

Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke

Chest, Heart or Stroke conditions can affect all parts of life, not just our health. If you are living with these long term conditions you may also have to learn to how to cope with changes to other aspects of your work, social or family life.

We deliver a range of support services to people affected by chest, heart and stroke conditions and their families. We help thousands of families every year to cope with the impact, and to support them to live to the full.

Anxiety & Depression

Living with a long–term health condition affects many aspects of your life. There are the physical symptoms like getting out of breath, feeling tired or having pain. But long–term health conditions can also affect your feelings and may have a major bearing on how you cope.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe. For some of us, anxiety starts after a long, slow build–up of stress. It can also start when we don’t feel in control of certain aspects of our lives, such as our health. This can make us worry about the future in general. For others, anxiety may be brought on by a single stressful event.

Feelings of anxiety can cause physical symptoms such as:

  • A racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Feeling a need to go to the toilet
  • Loss of concentration
  • Irritability
  • Breathlessness

If you start to feel anxious, it may help to try some breathing exercises or relaxation techniques. Often just concentrating on your breathing will take your mind off your immediate worries and help reduce your heart rate.

If you feel depressed or anxious, the first step is to talk to your loved ones about your concerns. Talking may also help them, because they will have their own worries about you.

Driving

If you’ve had, or currently have, a medical condition or disability that may affect your driving you should speak to your doctor or check with the Driver & Vehicle Agency (DVA).

For more information on telling the DVA about your condition click here. You should also seek advice from your insurance company to make sure it covers your medical condition.

Medication

Medication can play a big role in how well you feel and the way you take your prescribed medicines can make a big difference to their effectiveness. But it is easy to make mistakes without even realising.

Be careful always to follow directions when taking any medication. If you have questions, concerns or are experiencing undesirable side–effects, speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Employment

Continuing with your job or returning to it may be important for personal and financial reasons. It is sometimes difficult, however, if you suffer from tiredness, difficulty in concentrating, physical disability or any other debilitating aspect of your condition.

But the law is on your side. It’s unlawful for an employer to dismiss you on the grounds of chronic illness or because you need regular treatment. Under the Disability Discrimination Act, your employer must make reasonable changes to your workspace and working conditions to help you do your job.

You should talk to your employers about their expectations and yours, because:

  • The remit of your job or your work pattern may need to be adjusted
  • You should avoid taking on too much too soon
  • It is advisable to work reduced hours in the first instance, since tiredness may still be an issue
  • Working flexible hours may also be helpful, particularly if you have good days and bad days

Sometimes it can be an opportunity to try something else such as:

  • Changing jobs
  • Working part–time
  • Enrolling on a training course
  • Returning to education

Volunteering – working in the voluntary sector can be a great way of building up confidence and getting back into a working environment. It is also very fulfilling.

This information is general and not exhaustive. More advice on Employment Rights can be found on the Department of Employment and Learning and NI Direct Government Services or from your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

A full list of basic guidance on issues often experienced by people living with long–term conditions is available by clicking here.

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