February is American Heart Month
American Heart Month was established in 1963 to encourage Americans to be proactive about the fight against heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women, of which an estimated 630,000 Americans die from every year.
Coronary artery disease (CAD), which can cause heart attacks, is the most prevalent form of heart disease. However, a healthy lifestyle or possibly medication can lower the risk of CAD significantly.
- A form of heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S.; strokes cause 1 in 20
- Cardiovascular diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world, affecting over 17.3 million.
- Every 40 seconds, someone dies from cardiovascular disease or suffers a heart attack (about 734,000 people)
- Estimates believe that beginning in 2030, over 23.6 million people will die from a form of heart disease.
- African-Americans are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- Stroke and heart disease are the number one cause of death for Latino-Americans.
Get Involved: Activities to Support American Heart Month
There are numerous ways to promote heart health education during American Heart Month–or any time of the year.
Each year, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides an informational fact sheet with ways to raise awareness about this critical subject.
Check out some of these ideas, then visit the NHLBI website to learn how you can get involved.
- Sign social support/accountability forms with people you know who want to lose weight or make healthy changes to their lifestyle.
- Rather than going for the usual comfort-food favorites this Superbowl, opt for heart-friendly options instead.
- Host a dinner party or potluck with healthy dishes and ask others to share their recipes.
- Join (or start) a walking club with coworkers, friends, or nearby relatives.
- Make sharing nutritious recipes into a fun competition by organizing a cookoff with only heart-healthy foods.
- This Valentine’s Day, cook a delicious and healthy meal for (or with) your spouse or partner. Bonus points for taking a romantic stroll together!
Find more ideas, download the PDF.
Common Heart Health Problems
Cardiovascular disease is a term for a broad range of complications. Here are some common cardiovascular problems for seniors:
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Valve problems
- High cholesterol
With the right treatment, many of these conditions are manageable. However, if left unchecked, some can cause death or severe health problems.
Seniors, their loved ones, and caregivers should all learn the symptoms of these conditions.
Signs and Symptoms
Several indicators let you know something may be wrong with your cardiovascular system.
So throughout American Heart Month, commit some of the symptoms of heart disease to memory, especially if you or someone you know is at-risk.
Not every sign that manifests warrants an emergency room trip, but knowing when to seek medical help immediately is vital.
If you notice these signs, get emergency medical attention:
- Heart palpitations
- Impaired vision
- Slurred speech
- Trouble breathing
- Facial drooping
- Vomiting or nausea
- Chest pain or tightness
- Pain in the jaw, neck, back, arms, or other parts of the upper body
The signs below, on the other hand, indicate that it’s time to make a doctor’s appointment:
- Continuous fatigue
- Lower body swelling
- Trouble breathing after physical activity
- High or low blood pressure
- Fluttering in the chest
- Irregular heartbeat, or one that is fast or slow
Heart Disease Risk Factors for Seniors
Smoking, high blood pressure, and a sedentary lifestyle are the leading causes of heart disease in seniors.
Other contributors include:
- An unbalanced diet
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption
American Heart Month is the perfect time for older adults to educate themselves and make changes to protect their health.
Smoking is among the top causes of preventable death in the U.S. On average, smokers live ten years less than those who don’t.
In particular, seniors are especially susceptible to smoking’s harmful effects. Among the approximately 440,000 deaths associated with smoking, 70% are adults 60 or older.
Smoking induces or intensifies several health problems linked to heart diseases, such as atherosclerosis or high blood pressure.
Yet, many seniors continue to smoke despite knowing the risks. Data shows that 8% of U.S. smokers are older than 65.
If you are a smoker, make 2020 the year you quit. Talk to your healthcare provider, caregivers, friends, and relatives. Form a strategy to stop and build new habits so that you can take control of your health.
High Blood Pressure
The Mayo Clinic states that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most significant contributors to heart disease.
High blood pressure happens when the force of blood inside the veins becomes too high. This pressure puts stress on the arteries in the form of plaque build-up that narrows arteries.
If left untreated, plaque can lead to cardiovascular problems such as heart disease or heart attacks.
If you struggle with high blood pressure, American Heart Month is the time to schedule an appointment and discuss a plan with your doctor.
Staying physically active is essential for many reasons, but particularly since it supports heart health. A sedentary lifestyle is among the most common risk factors for developing coronary artery disease.
So this month, consider finding a program that suits your lifestyle and needs. Everybody is different, and developing a plan that’s right for you will make it easier to stick to all year long.
Healthy Heart Tips for Seniors
Heart disease might be one of the leading causes of death, but prevention is relatively straightforward and preventable.
Here are some simple changes to try throughout American Heart Month and the rest of the year.
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), consuming at least eight servings of fruits and veggies every day can help lower the chance of heart disease.
Moreover, fruits and veggies are packed full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, in addition to cardiovascular health, these and other nutrients can help manage weight and blood pressure.
So give your next meal a pop of color by adding some of your favorite fruits and vegetables.
Discuss how you can incorporate more vibrant foods, particularly dark, leafy greens, into your diet with your doctor, relatives, or caregiver.
Chronic stress and anxiety are some of the less-talked-about risk factors, but they can become a severe detriment to your health.
Everyone handles stress differently, and there are many ways to manage it, like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, yoga, or stretching.
You could also do activities like pet an animal, chatting with a friend, or taking a brief walk.
Participating in exercise, hobbies, and other enjoyable activities goes a long way to alleviate anxiety and enhance your mood.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Regular sleep deprivation or lousy sleep quality interferes with metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation. Additionally, these can raise the chances of heart disease.
Furthermore, seniors typically need about 7-9 hours of good rest. Improve the quality of sleep you get by creating a nighttime routine or avoiding caffeine later in the day. A short nap during the day might also be beneficial.
Healthcare professionals have long urged regular exercise people of all ages, including older adults. Still, those with chronic conditions should talk to their doctors before beginning a new regimen.
Besides exercising outside or at the gym, there are many indoor exercises for seniors to stay active and healthy.
Getting active is one of the fastest ways to feel better. Experts suggest that to get the most benefits, exercise at least 30 minutes, five days a week.
If you live a relatively sedentary lifestyle, that type of goal may not seem obtainable. But rather than get discouraged, start slow and work yourself up gradually.
Rather than push yourself to complete a strenuous 30-minute workout right off the bat, take a walk in your yard or neighborhood for 10 minutes each day, adding more time over several days or weeks.
If you feel inclined, increase the intensity of a casual stroll by carrying light hand weights.
Additionally, the AHA also suggests taking part in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
And, just like cardio, begin muscle training exercises at your comfort level. You can perform them sitting down and slowly work up to standing as your strength and balance increase.
Equally important is regular stretching is equally important. You should stretch after every workout or exercise session, regardless of its intensity.
Muscles contract and become tense, but routine stretching improves flexibility and helps you feel more relaxed.
Never stretch when you are cold, as it can cause injury or soreness.
MeetCaregivers Supports American Heart Month
Our qualified in-home care workers can help you or a loved one protect their cardiovascular health. A caregiver can assist with meal preparation, grocery shopping, and transportation to appointments.
Call (888) 541-1136, or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about finding the perfect match.
Visit the Blog for more resources about senior health and safety.