When you think of hearts in February, you likely picture heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, paper heart decorations, and Valentine’s Day cards. While this holiday and celebrating those we love is an integral part of the month, this alone is not what February is about.
February is American Heart Month, referring to a different kind of heart, and raises awareness of heart disease and prevention, reminding individuals of all ages to take care of their heart health.
First things first, what is heart disease? The term “heart disease” refers to a number of conditions that affect the heart, ranging from coronary artery disease to arrhythmia.
Vivage offers long-term care in Colorado and Missouri, and we know the importance of heart health. In recognition of American Heart Month, we are sharing the risk factors and symptoms of heart disease along with ways to build heart-healthy habits.
Risk Factors of Heart Disease
While this is a risk factor that you cannot control, it is still important to be mindful of it. As we age, our bodies go through changes that result in a higher risk of developing heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “heart disease can happen at any age, but the risk goes up as your age.” This is all the more reason to eliminate or reduce other risk factors that you can control to maintain your heart health.
High Blood Pressure
According to the American Heart Association, “high blood pressure increases the heart’s workload, causing the heart muscle to thicken and become stiffer.” When your heart has to work harder, it functions abnormally and results in a much higher risk of heart disease.
High Blood Cholesterol
“Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in certain foods (CDC).” Our bodies make enough cholesterol for our needs, but we often get excess from the foods we eat. When too much cholesterol is in our system, it can build up in the walls of our arteries, narrowing the arteries and decreasing blood flow to our vital organs. This decrease in blood flow puts you at a greater risk for developing heart disease.
Again, this is something that you have no control over, but knowing your family history can help you determine if you are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. If you are aware of someone in your family living with a heart condition, you will be more aware of potential symptoms and warning signs associated with heart disease. As a result, you will be able to act quickly and get the condition under control.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
While various conditions fall under what is considered “heart disease,” common symptoms of these conditions include:
Feeling faint or lightheaded
Having difficulty catching your breath
Feeling nauseous or vomiting
Pain or pressure in the chest
Unusual pains in the back, shoulders, or neck
An irregular heartbeat
Maintaining Heart Health & Preventing Heart Disease
Control Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels
Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol rarely have symptoms, so the only way to know if these levels are high is to test them. Work with your doctor to measure your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If they are high, following your physician’s advice on how to get them to a healthy level.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Filling up on plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can nourish your body with the vitamins and nutrients it needs without adding unnecessary fats and cholesterol. When possible, stay away from saturated fats, salty foods, and fatty meats.
Before making any significant changes to your diet, however, be sure to check with your healthcare provider.
Stay Physically Active
This does not mean that you have to participate in high-intensity workouts seven days a week. Instead, make sure you are getting up and moving around periodically. Take a walk around the block or participate in a yoga class. Whatever activity you choose, it will benefit your heart health.
Heart health is an important topic at any age, but its importance grows as we grow older. Vivage supports heart health and overall wellness through a variety of services and personalized care options. To learn more about our long-term care communities in Colorado and Missouri, contact a member of our team, or visit our website.