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Heart Health: Preventative Caregiving

Heart disease encompasses a myriad of heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack and heart failure, among other less common diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in most ethnic groups throughout the U.S. These are harsh but real statistics that make heart health well worth addressing. Although heart disease isn’t 100 percent preventable, there are preventative measures, lifestyle changes, and other ways to keep you and your loved ones well, and your heart health at its best. It is also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease, in order to seek treatment quickly and to ensure the best possible outcome if something goes wrong.


Coronary Artery Disease


According to the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, coronary artery disease is a condition where plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, cutting off the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Coronary artery disease often results in heart attack, and is the leading killer of both men and women in the U.S. In 2006 alone, more than 600,000 people died from this disease — and those numbers continue to climb today.

Preventing Coronary Artery Disease


The most common type of heart disease in the U.S. is coronary artery disease (CAD), notes the Centers for Disease Control. The risk for coronary artery disease can be greatly reduced through certain lifestyle changes. The largest preventative factor is reducing cholesterol and blood pressure. Some of the lifestyle changes suggested for people at risk for CAD are exercise, a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Some of the most common risk factors include diabetes, obesity or being overweight, and having high cholesterol and blood pressure.

If maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine proves difficult for your loved one, set up an elder care services plan to find exercises that cater to their interests and physical abilities, such as a stroll through the park, a leisurely swim or water aerobics class, playing a game of tennis, practicing yoga, or biking. If appropriate, also consider low-impact, seated exercise, like the Sit And Be Fit program. Setting aside daily time for physical activity can be a great opportunity for you and your family to spend time with your loved one, or for them to meet friends with similar interests.

Although the above-mentioned lifestyle changes are not a 100 percent guarantee in preventing CAD, they can lead to a happier, healthier life for your loved one, and a more rapid recovery from illness and/or injury.

Signs & Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease


The leading symptom of coronary artery disease is angina, more commonly known as chest pain. Angina can be experienced in a range of ways, from pain, pressure or even squeezing in the chest — but may also be felt in the shoulders, neck, arms or back, according to the Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat and fatigue are also early signs of CAD. If you believe you may be suffering from coronary artery disease, consult your doctor promptly. It is important to see your doctor if you start experiencing symptoms, because a prompt diagnosis and immediate treatment means an easier recovery.

Heart Attack


A heart attack occurs when blood flow to a certain section of the heart is blocked. This blockage can result for any number of reasons, with the most frequent being plaque build-up and high cholesterol levels. The Heart, Lung and Blood Institute explains if any section of the heart doesn’t receive blood flow again — and quickly — it may suffer permanent damage and will often die. Each year, about 1.1 million people in the U.S. have heart attacks, and almost half of those heart attacks result in death.

Prevention


Living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent heart attack. The American Heart Association cites the following as the best preventative measures: quit smoking, choose good nutrition, reduce cholesterol, maintain daily physical activity and a healthy weight, manage diabetes, reduce stress and limit alcohol intake.

Some of these habits may be hard to break — but the best care you can give your loved one is to help them choose a healthy lifestyle by making obtainable daily goals. Exercise doesn’t have to mean time at the gym, it can be as simple as moving more. Good nutrition can start with small steps, such as drinking more water and choosing healthier grains. Embracing a healthy lifestyle requires a serious commitment, but the choice to live better is worth it.

Signs & Symptoms of a Heart Attack


In the event that you or a loved one suffers a heart attack, knowing the signs and symptoms can save your life. Most people commonly recognize chest pain as an indicator, but are not aware that many other symptoms can be present. The Centers for Disease Control lists the following as warning signs of a heart attack: chest pain lasting for more than a few minutes, or chest pain that comes and goes; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach; shortness of breath; cold sweats; nausea; feeling light-headed. A heart attack feels different to each person. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and believe you’re having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. It is crucial to recognize the myriad of symptoms associated with a heart attack — in order to receive immediate treatment to save the heart and prevent further complications.

Heart Failure


As defined by the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, heart failure occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood throughout the body. Heart failure doesn’t mean that the heart has stopped, but it does mean that quick medical attention is a necessity. About 5.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from heart failure, resulting in about 300,000 deaths per year.

Prevention


People at high risk for heart failure include diabetics, those who are obese, and those suffering from coronary artery disease. Whether you’re at risk or not, taking care of your heart to prevent heart failure is essential. The Heart, Lung and Blood Institute cites the following as key preventative measures: maintaining a healthy weight; eating a diet full of lean meats, beans, fruits and vegetables; avoiding saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium; refraining from smoking and heavy drinking; engaging in physical activity regularly. Following a heart-healthy diet, as well as exercising routinely will keep your loved one step ahead of heart failure. It is crucial to keep the heart muscle healthy in order to keep the rest of the body healthy.

Heart Failure Signs & Symptoms


If you’re suffering from heart failure, you’ll most likely notice certain signs and symptoms. The symptoms of heart failure are not as pronounced as those of a heart attack, and therefore go unnoticed, and often for long periods of time. If you’re fatigued, have shortness of breath, are experiencing swelling in the ankles, legs, abdomen and veins in the neck, you may be suffering from heart failure, explains the Centers for Disease Control. As the heart weakens, it may be exhausting for you to carry out simple daily tasks, like bathing or putting away laundry. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consult a doctor as soon as possible.

There is no known cure for heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure, but preventing ailments of the heart can be as easy as basic lifestyle changes. As scientific research and medical studies continue to improve, the emphasis on exercise and a healthy diet grows. No matter your age, risk factors, or genetics, taking care to prevent heart disease and keep heart health optimal is essential.

More About Homewatch CareGivers


Homewatch CareGivers is a premier caregiver agency, providing home care for all ages. We invite you to visit www.homewatchcaregivers.com, where you can read articles related to home health, Dementia Care Tips and home care news; or download PDF home care resources. From health care coordination and hospital discharge planning to home care transportation and daily living assistance, let our family of caregivers care for yours.

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