Valentine’s Day is not the only reason people think about the heart during February. February is National Heart Month, Feb. 1 is National Wear Red Day (to raise awareness about heart disease in women), and Feb. 7-14 is Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week. This focus on the heart reminds you and your loved ones to take care of yours.
It is common knowledge that there are steps you can take to make your heart healthier: stop smoking, lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure. However, the American Heart Association says while those rates are decreasing, the rate of death from heart disease is only on track to go down by 6 percent by 2020. That’s because the steps people are taking toward improving their health is often offset by bad habits. The increase in obesity and diabetes, added to only small changes in diet and exercise, counteracts other improvements.
Additionally, a study published by the American Geriatrics Society found that older people who have suffered from a heart attack often do not stick with the drugs prescribed by their doctor. For instance, on average, seniors filled prescriptions for the blood thinner clopidogrel (Plavix) less than half the time. Researchers say the worse they are at filling those prescriptions, the more likely they are to have health problems and die earlier.
This news is especially troubling during the winter. Another study published by the American Heart Association found that heart attacks are more deadly during the winter months. It’s unclear why, but experts speculate that it could be because people are less inclined to exercise when it’s colder.
Knowing the health of your heart can be as easy as looking in the mirror. The American Heart Association says people who look old, with receding hairlines, bald heads, creases near their ear lobes, or bumpy deposits on their eyelids, have a greater chance of developing of heart disease than younger-looking people the same age. Doctors say this is the difference between biological and chronological age.
Whatever the problems with your heart, you do not need to confront them alone. The American Heart Association has a wide range of resources at www.heart.org. Homewatch CareGivers can also provide help in monitoring medications, making sure you or your loved one eat the proper diet, and make sure there is guidance from a doctor when needed.