According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. An estimated 610,000 people die of heart disease every year, which accounts for 1 in 4 total deaths nationwide. To make matters worse, “nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson first declared February as American Heart Month in 1963. At the time he said, “over one-half of the 10 million Americans afflicted by the cardiovascular diseases are stricken during their most productive years, thereby causing a staggering physical and economic loss to the nation.” While we’ve made tremendous strides in our understanding of heart disease in those intervening years, the country’s staggering death toll shows our prevention efforts still have a long way to go.
What Causes Heart Disease?
The term heart disease is a general term for a number of different heart conditions.
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): CAD is the most common type of heart disease in the United States and refers to plaque buildup on the walls of arteries that supply blood to the heart. This plaque causes arteries to narrow, eventually restricting or blocking blood flow. CAD can also cause heart muscles to weaken, which could eventually lead to heart failure.
- Heart Attack: Also called a myocardial infarction, heart attack occurs when heart muscles don’t receive proper blood flow. Every year, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack.
- Other Heart Conditions: Heart disease also refers to conditions like angina, irregular heartbeats, or heart failure.
In 2015, The American Heart Association estimated that some 85 million Americans were living with some form heart disease.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are the most important risk factors for developing heart disease. The CDC estimates that 47% of Americans have at least one of these risk factors. Other risk and lifestyle factors put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. They include:
- Poor Diet
- Physical Activity
- Excessive Alcohol Use
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease?
Making healthy lifestyle changes is the most effective way of preventing heart disease.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Start by eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other high-fiber foods and reduce your intake of processed foods. Also limit your consumption of saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol, as well as salt and sugar. This will help regulate your blood pressure, keep your blood cholesterol low, and reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
- Be Physically Active: The Surgeon General recommends adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week. This activity will help you maintain a healthy body weight, and lower you blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugars.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: A proper diet and plenty of exercise will help you maintain a healthy body weight. You can use the CDC’s body mass index information to determine your current body weight health.
- Don’t Smoke: There’s no safe smoking level. If you do smoke, the CDC strongly suggests you quit to reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Limit Alcohol Intake: Alcohol consumption can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1.
Older Americans Are Most at Risk for Heart Disease
Your risk of developing heart disease increases dramatically as you age. According to Kaiser Permanente, “about four out of five people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older.” Our bodies become less resilient as we age, and a lifetime of poor lifestyle habits ultimately take their toll. Fortunately it’s never too late to make healthy changes.
No matter how old you are, eating a healthy diet and getting more exercise will pay dividends. And the earlier you begin making these changes, the better. One thing is clear, however. Heart disease is the number one health threat for all Americans, and we need to pay close attention to our heart health long after National Heart Month ends.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care can help provide the quality in-home care and support services seniors need to live fuller, healthier, independent lives.
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. We take a holistic approach and emphasize 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.