In Cardiac Psychology, Dr. Robert Allan demonstrates his approach to working with patients who have or are at risk for coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death and disability in Western civilization. Arguably, the field of cardiac psychology/behavioral cardiology is informed by the largest empirical database in behavioral medicine. Because many of the risk factors surrounding cardiac health have behavioral components, psychologists may be of great service to people at risk for this health problem.
Dr. Allan's approach is to meet an individual "where he or she is." Most important, this requires helping the patient identify which risk factors may be involved in their developing coronary disease and help him or her change those conditions, which include behavioral factors, such as cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and unhealthy diet, as well as such psychosocial factors as depression, social isolation, anger, and cardiac denial. Often, this approach requires providing education about risk factors and cardiac function.
In this particular session, Dr. Allan works with a 54-year-old African American long-haul truck driver who has recently suffered a heart attack. He discusses the biological basis of cardiac problems and risk factors for heart disease and then works with the patient to devise strategies to reduce risk of a future cardiac event, as well as ways to respond to cardiac symptoms, should they recur, to spare unnecessary damage to his heart and possibly even save his life.