Every year, some 647,000 people in the United States die from heart disease — that’s one out of every four deaths. Those numbers make heart disease the leading killer of most Americans, and it’s been that way for decades. Back in 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced February 1964 as the first American Heart Month. Now, nearly sixty years later, American Heart Month serves as an annual reminder about the importance of heart health.
Heart disease takes many forms. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing of crucial arteries due to fatty plaque build-up. This condition can lead to heart attack, which causes potentially lethal damage to the heart muscle. Ultimately heart disease can lead to heart failure, a fatal condition that can be cured only through a heart transplant.
Who’s at Risk for Heart Disease?
This issue becomes even more critical with age. As we get older, our heart and blood vessels naturally stiffen. When those natural changes combine with a lifetime of unhealthy lifestyle decisions, more significant health problems often follow. According to the American College of Cardiology, “for people older than 75, high blood pressure is the most common heart condition. Coronary artery disease and heart failure are next.” So, who’s most likely to develop heart disease? Here are the primary risk factors:
- Diabetes: Over time, high blood glucose levels that are the hallmark of diabetes, cause blood vessels to become stiff and hard. This condition — called atherosclerosis — can lead to heart disease and stroke.
- Obesity: Individuals with excess fat mass are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart failure, and heart disease.
- Unhealthy diet: Diets filled with excess sodium and high levels of saturated fat can lead to obesity, diabetes, and, eventually, heart disease.
- Physical inactivity: Physically inactive people are at an increased risk of developing heart disease than those who get regular exercise.
- Excessive alcohol use: alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure and to diseases of the heart muscle, called cardiomyopathy.
If you fall into any of the above categories, your health will benefit from positive lifestyle changes.
Preventing Heart Disease
Despite the grim statistics, it is possible to improve your heart health through healthy lifestyle changes. To get started, focus on the four critical areas:
- Choose a healthy diet: Reduce your saturated fat, sodium, and sugar intake. Avoid eating processed foods and limit your alcohol consumption. Instead, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying excess body weight puts added strain on your heart and blood vessels and increases your risk of developing heart disease. Your health will benefit if you can maintain a healthy weight.
- Get plenty of exercise: Regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Exercise also lowers your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking increases your risk of heart disease. If you smoke, your doctor can help you stop.
Maintaining good heart health should be a top priority for every American as they age. Through diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices, fewer Americans will die of heart disease, and more will live happy and healthy lives well into old age. Hopefully someday, observances like American Heart Month will no longer be necessary.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.