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Support group helps cardiac patients thrive.

Cardiac disease is not an illness of only the aged, says Nancy Partika, the founder and facilitator of the Gilbert Cardiac Support Group at AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center. Members of her Elk Grove Village group are as young as early 40s (and into their late 70s).

And the XX chromosome pair is not getting you off the hook, either. "I have read a lot of research stating that women are now catching up to men in occurrence of cardiac issues," the licensed professional counselor explained.

Named after her beloved father who died of a massive heart attack at a young age, the Gilbert Cardiac Support Group is sponsored by the Spiritual Care Services Department and provides a caring place for cardiac patients to share information and feelings about their personal journey.

"Many of them also need an opportunity to talk about the significant issues this has brought to their everyday lives," Partika said, "and members have told me how thankful they are that AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center has one such group in place and that they have this support in their community."

About 600,000 Americans die of heart attacks each year and support groups like Partika's address lifestyle changes that can help participants live longer lives.

Partika, who has a master's degree in psychology and runs the groups as a volunteer, begins a session by asking about issues members might have experienced in the past week, then the group shares and discusses various topics from relationships with family and friends since the cardiac event to rehospitalizations, felt losses, lifestyle changes, sleep, stress and social support.

"I explain how depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD and anger and control issues are related to cardiac health as well and we discuss solutions," she explained. "We also talk about prognosis and end-of-life issues."

The emotional aspects of having cardiac health issues can play a significant role in staying healthy and living longer and as an LPC, Partika focuses on the head as well as the heart.

"I can tell you that psychological issues are strongly linked to cardiac health," she noted. "Try to eliminate or lessen stress, maintain happiness and connection to others. Seek a professional if you have sleep issues, depression or anxiety. Also, attend to anger and control issues which can make you sick as well. According to research, almost half of cardiac risk is in one's own control."

Members of the Gilbert Cardiac Support Group aren't required to share, and can just listen. Everything said in group remains confidential and members can bring a support person with them. Some have been participating since the group's inception in 2014. It's the only cardiac group currently at any of the health system's 19 hospitals, but Partika hopes technology can help to include other hospitals in the network.

Sessions run weekly for six weeks (from 6:30 to 8 p.m.) and there are four groups per year. It's free and any cardiac patient is welcome to join (you do not have to have been a patient at any of the 19 AMITA hospitals). Register by calling (855) 692-6482 or for more information on the group, call (847) 981-6015 or visit

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Title Annotation:Real Estate
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Mar 14, 2019
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