Your Heart—Your Health
February is a month focused on the heart—Valentine’s Day and National Heart Month. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease was the leading cause of death in both men and women 65 years or older and caused about 66 percent of deaths in people age 75 and older. While heart disease risk factors increase with age, there are still several things you can do to manage the risk.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the general term given to a group of health conditions that affect the heart. The most common diseases are Coronary Artery Disease, heart valve disorders, heart rhythm abnormalities, and heart failure. A person of any age can develop heart disease and some are born with it.
Symptoms of heart disease depend on the type of heart disease. Symptoms can be as vague as indigestion, nausea, weakness, increased fatigue/poor endurance, or irregular heartbeat to as prominent as chest pain, shortness of breath, or pain in the neck, jaw, back, or arm(s)--which could be signs of a heart attack (Call 911 immediately). For many people, chest discomfort is the first sign of heart disease and should not be ignored.
What Can Be Done to Prevent It?
What can be done to prevent heart disease or decrease the likelihood of developing it? The American Heart Association (AHA) tracks seven key behaviors and diseases that are known to have the greatest impact on heart disease: Smoking, Physical Activity, Healthy Diet, Weight, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, and Diabetes. They call these the “Life’s Simple 7”. Here is how you can manage these areas:
• Smoking—if you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: If you smoke, it’s time to quit.
• Physical Activity—AHA Recommendation For Overall Cardiovascular Health: At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 OR At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity AND Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
• Healthy Diet—Divide your plate into quarters. Half of the plate should be vegetables, one quarter whole grains, and one quarter lean meat such as fish and skinless poultry; choose low fat dairy options; limit sugary beverages such as soda, juices, and foods high in sodium. Older adults living on a fixed budget can sometimes find it difficult to afford healthy meals. In these cases, Meals on Wheels can provide a healthy meal once a day. To get set up call 309-263-7708 for Morton or Rural Tazewell County or 309-674-1131 for Peoria and surrounding areas. In other cases, seniors just lose interest in cooking healthy meals and their diet becomes unhealthy. Enlisting in a Home Care agency to come in and help with meal planning, shopping, and preparation can ease the burden of cooking and provide you with healthy meals to enjoy throughout the week.
• Weight--being overweight or obese increases your risk. Following a healthy diet and maintaining regular physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight.
• High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes—it is important to prevent or treat these health conditions to significantly reduce your heart disease risk factors. Know your numbers and try to change diet and activity levels in order to prevent. Once these diseases are present, medications can help reduce these risk factors, but only if they are taken as prescribed. Medication reminders are an important service that is also provided by home care. If you find it difficult to manage your medications and get refills before the medications run out, some pharmacies can deliver pre-filled medication boxes to your home for a small charge or a home care nurse can come to your home and fill your boxes on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.
Medicare pays for an annual wellness visit for every beneficiary. Take advantage of this free service and schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss what he or she would consider to be your risk factors and help you develop a program to reduce or manage your risk.
The old adage goes “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. It is not too late to start making changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
For recommendations for Healthy Eating and Heart-Healthy grocery shopping visit the American Heart Association’s Healthy Eating site at http://tinyurl.com/od7egjs or call Apostolic Christian Home Care Services at 309-689-5343 to request printed information.
Statistical Fact Sheet 2013 Update: Older Americans & Cardiovascular Disease. (January 2016). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319574.pdf
American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. (January 2016). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.VpZz37YrKHs