You are probably tired of hearing it, but you’re an adult now. And your life has probably seen a lot of changes. Maybe you moved out of your house, went to college, started a relationship, or got a job…major changes. Even with all of that on your plate, there’s one other thing you have to manage: your health.
Being born with a congenital heart defect means you are no stranger to doctors. And you have definitely outgrown the cutesy children’s clinics you attended until teenage years. But now is not the time to ghost on your cardiac care. In fact, it’s more important than ever.
Even though it seems like one more thing to schedule in your increasingly hectic life, your Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) health care team is your greatest resource when it comes to navigating all these new experiences. Managing stress, drugs and alcohol, all of these things affect the heart.
While your desire not to rely on your parents is reasonable and a movement to independence is actually encouraged, consider them your allies in health. They’ve been on this journey with you. Make sure to talk to them about your health and adult care. Not because they worry (although of course they do) but they are your living medical record, can help recall important events and medications, and can relate to how hard this can be. Really.
The good news is even with ACHD you are likely not that different from your peers. Trying to figure out what you want to do with your life is pretty typical! Plus, everyone will face some kind of health challenges in adulthood.
You can stay ahead of these issues, but you are in the driver’s seat now. So in between those Tinder dates, make time for your cardiologist.
In this blog series, we will tackle the tough issues that young adults with congenital heart disease (ACHD) face as they manage a lifelong condition. Sex, drugs and alcohol, tattoos and piercings are considerations for many young adults, but those with ACHD might wonder: is it safe? The ACHD team at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute works to make sure no question goes unanswered, so if you have questions that go beyond the blog visit our website or submit your own question here.
Adrienne Kovacs, Ph.D., is a psychologist who works with people who have congenital heart disease—a heart problem that has been present since birth. She directs Behavioral Cardiovascular Care at the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute.