American Heart Month: Check Your Heart

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American Heart Month: Check Your Heart

Make a fist. That is the average size of a human heart. A tiny organ that runs the show for the body behind the scenes. February is American Heart Month. This is especially important for Americans because heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.

Heart disease is most common in older Americans, although it can strike younger people too, especially men. Heart disease is no respecter of race either. Different ethnicities have immunities or weaknesses for different diseases. However, heart disease is the leading cause of death for most races, although for Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians, it comes in second to cancer.

Nobody likes to go to the doctor (especially men- right?!), but checking in on your heart at least once a year is important. 80% of deaths caused by heart disease can be prevented by a healthier lifestyle. Going to the doctor can give you the information you need to create a lifestyle plan that may ultimately add years to your life.

What Is Heart Disease?

The heart is a beautiful machine. It has four chambers. Oxygen-rich blood from the lungs flows through the left two chambers and out into the body. The blood then returns to the right side of the heart to be pumped into the lungs to be oxygenated. There are many different parts of the heart, and, when one of those parts is adversely affected, the whole machine breaks down.

The heart also changes naturally with age. None of these changes should cause alarm, unless symptoms like abnormal chest pain, irregular heart beat, faintness and shortness of breath, and extreme exhaustion occur. The heart slows down a little bit as we age. The lining of the chambers and capillary walls become naturally thicker. All of these factors and more contribute to a moderately higher blood pressure in older adults. This is nothing to be afraid of, however it does increase the risk of heart disease.

“Heart disease” is an umbrella term that describes a host of different illnesses like infections, plaque build up, and birth defects. Symptoms of heart disease can vary depending on the type. However, experts agree that chest pain (often radiating into the shoulder and down the arm), irregular heart beat, faintness, shortness of breath, and exhaustion can be signals that it’s time to dial 911.

The most common cause of heart disease is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a build of fatty plaque in the artery. This build up causes a blockage that leads to heart attack. Thankfully, this form of heart disease can be guarded against with habit and lifestyle changes.

Help Your Heart Stay Healthy

Habit and lifestyle changes aren’t easy, especially in older adults. However, healthy lifestyle changes can to lead to feeling better which usually leads to a happier, more fulfilled life. There are many changes that can be made, but here are five big ones.

Stop Smoking

Smoking raises your blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease. These days, there are many different patches, programs, and pills to help you quit smoking. If this is something that you feel you need to do, talk to your doctor about which one is right for you. It might seem completely daunting to stop smoking, but get help that will make it much easier than you think! 

Limit Alcohol Intake

This doesn’t mean no more alcohol ever. Moderate consumption of alcohol is fine and, depending on the alcohol, studies have shown this to be beneficial to your heart health. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you need to cut back on your alcohol consumption.

Cut Back On Sugar and Add More Vegetables

Sugar occurs naturally in most unprocessed foods. Even some dairy products have a small amount of sugar, but there is more than one type of sugar and it’s the processed sugars that will really harm your heart.

Harvard Health reports that processed sugar consumption is a huge problem for Americans and can lead to “higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease.” All of these contribute to heart attacks and strokes.

An easy way to cut back on sugar consumption is to either cut out sugary drinks, candy, dessert, and sugar-filled breakfast foods or limit yourself to one to three treats a week.

American Heart Month: Check Your Heart 1Try creative ways to add more greens to your diet. A salad a day or a vegetable at dinner or a green smoothie are all great ways to do this. If you’re uncertain which vegetables are best, just go for color. Green isn’t the only heart healthy vegetable option. There’s spicy red radishes, sweet orange peppers, and subtle yellow squash.


Need more ideas? Here are 40 unexpected ways to add veggies to your meals!

Exercise and Weight Management

American Heart Month: Check Your HeartRunning is wonderful for your heart, but exercise high in intensity for you could be low in intensity for others and vice versa. High intensity exercise depends on your unique physical make up.

Mild to moderate cardio, yoga, and swimming are all wonderful for your heart and these things can be as intense or low key as you want them to be. (You can even do a lot of exercises in your house. See our videos and printable PDF with easy exercises for seniors.)

The most important part of a cardio routine is not what you are doing, but the consistency with which you do it.

Talk to your doctor if you have weight management concerns. Being under or over weight can contribute to heart problems later in life.

Sleep Well

Sleep isn’t just a rest for your mind and body, it rests your heart as well. The heart is always working, but when you sleep well, it slows down and your blood pressure goes down as well. Talk to your doctor if you are not getting quality sleep. Light sleeping, waking up multiple times a night, and not getting enough sleep are all important factors in the quality of your sleep.

Check Your Heart

American Heart Month: Check Your Heart 2One of the best things you can do for your heart is to go get it checked out. February isn’t just American Heart Month, February is also Self Check Month. In honor of these two very important health reminders, maybe it’s time to be proactive and make an appointment with your doctor.

If you do decide to make an appointment, it’s helpful to write out a list of questions to ask your doctor. Make sure your doctor checks your blood pressure and cholesterol. Your doctor should be someone you trust to take the time to explain your specific issues and options.

There are many factors that keep people from going to the doctor. Sometimes it’s fear of the unknown, sometimes it’s denial that there is or could be a problem. Nobody likes to go to the doctor, but that little machine that keeps your body ticking needs a little TLC every once in a while. Why not make an appointment this month?

At Home Care provides expert services and peace of mind. Request a free consultation today. 

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