American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and this year’s theme is “Our hearts are healthier together.” Research has shown that having social support and personal networks makes getting regular physical activity, eating healthy, losing weight, and quitting smoking easier. During American Heart Month, assemble your friends and family and use #OurHearts to share how you’re working together to be heart healthy.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

 

Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol is a condition in which your blood has too much cholesterol—a waxy, fat-like substance. The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attack.

 

Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins. Two major kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body:

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL cholesterol sometimes is called “bad” cholesterol. This is because it carries cholesterol to tissues, including your heart arteries. A high LDL cholesterol level raises your risk of CHD.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDL). HDL cholesterol sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk of CHD.

 

Many factors affect your cholesterol levels. For example, after menopause, women’s LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise, and their HDL cholesterol levels tend to fall. Other factors—such as age, gender, diet, and physical activity—also affect your cholesterol levels.

 

Healthy levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol will prevent plaque from building up in your arteries. Routine blood tests can show whether your blood cholesterol levels are healthy. Talk with your doctor about having your cholesterol tested and what the results mean.

 

Children also can have unhealthy cholesterol levels, especially if they’re overweight or their parents have high blood cholesterol. Talk with your child’s doctor about testing your child’ cholesterol levels.

To learn more about high blood cholesterol and how to manage the condition, go to the Health Topics High Blood Cholesterol article.

 

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. Some studies suggest that a high level of triglycerides in the blood may raise the risk of CHD, especially in women.

 

High Blood Pressure

“Blood pressure” is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup. All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk of CHD. This risk grows as blood pressure levels rise. Only one of the two blood pressure numbers has to be above normal to put you at greater risk of CHD and heart attack.

 

Most adults should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you have high blood pressure, you’ll likely need to be checked more often. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have your blood pressure checked.

 

Children also can develop high blood pressure, especially if they’re overweight. Your child’s doctor should check your child’s blood pressure at each routine checkup.

Both children and adults are more likely to develop high blood pressure if they’re overweight or have diabetes.

For more information about high blood pressure and how to manage the condition, go to the Health Topics High Blood Pressure article.

 

Diabetes and Prediabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s blood sugar level is too high. The two types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.

 

In type 1 diabetes, the body’s blood sugar level is high because the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells, where it’s used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s blood sugar level is high mainly because the body doesn’t use its insulin properly.

Over time, a high blood sugar level can lead to increased plaque buildup in your arteries. Having diabetes doubles your risk of CHD.

 

Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not as high as it is in diabetes. If you have prediabetes and don’t take steps to manage it, you’ll likely develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. You’re also at higher risk of CHD.

 

Being overweight or obese raises your risk of type 2 diabetes. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, people who have prediabetes may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. They also may be able to lower their risk of CHD and heart attack. Weight loss and physical activity also can help control diabetes.

 

Even children can develop type 2 diabetes. Most children who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Type 2 diabetes develops over time and sometimes has no symptoms. Go to your doctor or local clinic to have your blood sugar levels tested regularly to check for diabetes and prediabetes.

 

For more information about diabetes and heart disease, go to the Health Topics Diabetic Heart Disease article. For more information about diabetes and prediabetes, go to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK’s) Introduction to Diabetes.

 

Overweight and Obesity

The terms “overweight” and “obesity” refer to body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and almost one-third of these adults are obese.

 

The most useful measure of overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI). You can use the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI’s) online BMI calculator to figure out your BMI, or your doctor can help you.

 

Overweight is defined differently for children and teens than it is for adults. Children are still growing, and boys and girls mature at different rates. Thus, BMIs for children and teens compare their heights and weights against growth charts that take age and gender into account. This is called BMI-for-age percentile.

Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of CHD and heart attack. This is mainly because overweight and obesity are linked to other CHD risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

 

For more information, go to the Health Topics Overweight and Obesity article.

 

Smoking

Smoking tobacco or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke raises your risk of CHD and heart attack.

Smoking triggers a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Smoking also increases the risk of blood clots forming in your arteries. Blood clots can block plaque-narrowed arteries and cause a heart attack. Some research shows that smoking raises your risk of CHD in part by lowering HDL cholesterol levels.

 

The more you smoke, the greater your risk of heart attack. The benefits of quitting smoking occur no matter how long or how much you’ve smoked. Heart disease risk associated with smoking begins to decrease soon after you quit, and for many people it continues to decrease over time.

 

Most people who smoke start when they’re teens. Parents can help prevent their children from smoking by not smoking themselves. Talk with your child about the health dangers of smoking and ways to overcome peer pressure to smoke.

 

For more information, including tips on how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the NHLBI’s “Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.”

 

For more information about children and smoking, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Kids and Smoking external link Web page and the CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use external link Web page.

 

Lack of Physical Activity

Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop CHD as those who are active. A lack of physical activity can worsen other CHD risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and prediabetes, and overweight and obesity.

 

It’s important for children and adults to make physical activity part of their daily routines. One reason many Americans aren’t active enough is because of hours spent in front of TVs and computers doing work, schoolwork, and leisure activities.

 

Some experts advise that children and teens should reduce screen time because it limits time for physical activity. They recommend that children aged 2 and older should spend no more than 2 hours a day watching TV or using a computer (except for school work).

 

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy. The good news is that even modest amounts of physical activity are good for your health. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.

 

For more information, go to HHS’ “2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” external link the Health Topics Physical Activity and Your Heart article, and the NHLBI’s “Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart.”

 

Unhealthy Diet

An unhealthy diet can raise your risk of CHD. For example, foods that are high in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol raise LDL cholesterol. Thus, you should try to limit these foods.

 

It’s also important to limit foods that are high in sodium (salt) and added sugars. A high-salt diet can raise your risk of high blood pressure.

 

Added sugars will give you extra calories without nutrients like vitamins and minerals. This can cause you to gain weight, which raises your risk of CHD. Added sugars are found in many desserts, canned fruits packed in syrup, fruit drinks, and nondiet sodas.

 

Stress

Stress and anxiety may play a role in causing CHD. Stress and anxiety also can trigger your arteries to tighten. This can raise your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack.

 

The most commonly reported trigger for a heart attack is an emotionally upsetting event, especially one involving anger. Stress also may indirectly raise your risk of CHD if it makes you more likely to smoke or overeat foods high in fat and sugar.

 

Age

In men, the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) increases starting around age 45. In women, the risk for CHD increases starting around age 55. Most people have some plaque buildup in their heart arteries by the time they’re in their 70s. However, only about 25 percent of those people have chest pain, heart attacks, or other signs of CHD.

 

Gender

Some risk factors may affect CHD risk differently in women than in men. For example, estrogen provides women some protection against CHD, whereas diabetes raises the risk of CHD more in women than in men.

 

Also, some risk factors for heart disease only affect women, such as preeclampsia, a condition that can develop during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is linked to an increased lifetime risk of heart disease, including CHD, heart attack, heart failure, and high blood pressure. (Likewise, having heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes or obesity, increases a woman’s risk of preeclampsia.)

 

Family History

A family history of early CHD is a risk factor for developing CHD, specifically if a father or brother is diagnosed before age 55, or a mother or sister is diagnosed before age 65.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fatal Falls Have Increased 31% in 10 Years

Falls are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among persons aged 65 years and older, and the age-adjusted rate of deaths from falls is increasing. The rate of deaths from falls among persons aged 65 years and older increased 31% from 2007 to 2016, increasing in 30 states and the District of Columbia, and among men and women. The study last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found, not surprisingly, that the risk of dying from a fall increases greatly with age. Among Americans aged 65 to 74, there were 15.6 deaths for every 100,000 people in 2016. That rate jumped to 61.4 deaths per 100,000 for people between the ages of 75 and 84, and it soared to 247.9 per 100,000 for people aged 85 and older.

 

The CDC researchers did not investigate the reasons fatal falls have increased among older Americans, but they point to several possible factors: reduced physical activity; people living longer with chronic diseases (which can make them more vulnerable to falls); increased use of prescription medications (which can slow down thinking and reaction time); and age-related changes in gait and balance.

 

The researchers recommend that physicians assess how much their older patients are at risk of falling, and then help patients address any risk factors that are modifiable — by changing the patient’s medications, for example, or encouraging the patient to engage in specific physical activities to improve gait, strength and balance.

 

Falls Are Serious and Costly

  • One out of five falls causes a serious injury such as broken bones or a head injury
  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.
  • Each year at least 300,000 older people are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • In 2015, the total medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.

 

Outcomes of falls range from the minor cuts and bruises that anyone could expect to the worst possible results—disability and death. Overall, unfortunately, because of pre-existing health issues, lower bone and muscle strength, and other factors, falls among the elderly tend to have worse outcomes than among the general population. This leads to substantial costs both to the families of fall victims and to society at large.

 

Earlier this year, the United States Preventive Services Task Force reported that regular exercise was the most effective action older people could take to reduce their risk of falls.

 

Check out the Go4Life website: https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/

Check out the STEADI website: www.cdc.gov/steadi

 

 

 

10-Minute Sample Workout for Older Adults

Physical activity is an important part of healthy aging. Try this Go4Life workout video to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life. In this video, Go4Life fitness instructor Sandy Magrath leads older adults through a workout featuring a warm up, strength, flexibility and balance exercises, and a cool down.

Equipment needed: a stable chair, hand weights or evenly weighted objects, and a towel.

The Go4Life Campaign from the National Institute on Aging focuses on encouraging older adults to make exercise and physical activity a part of their daily life. Use the Go4Life Everyday Exercises to practice the four types of exercise that are important for older adults: strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance.

 

For More Workouts: Getting Fit for Life

Visit: https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/workout-videos/

Visit https://go4life.nia.nih.gov/ for online resources, motivational tips, and free materials that can be sent to your home.

Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NIAGo4Life

 

 

 

Age Safe® America is a proud National Partner of Go4Life

Why People Want To Remain Living In Their Current Homes

We are in the aging in place business because we want to help people continue to remain their homes for as long as they desire – essentially the rest of their lives. Why do people get so attached to their homes that they literally do not want to leave them? Many reasons actually, notwithstanding the cost and disruption of moving into a retirement facility.

 

When people looked for and found the home they are in now, it took a tremendous amount of searching, comparison shopping, and an emotional commitment, as well as a financial one. They had to give up the home or apartment they had previously – one that may have had some very good memories for them and one that they maybe liked also – to move into their new home.

 

Their former home could have had some shortcomings in terms of layout, floor plan, size, location, or maintenance and repair concerns. It had served their needs for however long they had lived there, but now they were acquiring something else.

 

What they got and moved into – their current and “forever” home – was not a “house” or a “unit.” Those are real estate and construction industry terms. They are impersonal and cannot reflect the value that someone’s living environment has for them. “Home” is the correct word. People can get quite excited about remaining in their home long-term. Not so much about a house.

 

So, people want to remain where they are because they have been paying down their mortgage for a number of years (maybe it’s totally mortgage-free). They possess a lifetime of accumulated memories – from this home and all of their previous homes along the way, including the ones of their childhood. Usually, those memories are reinforced with mementos and keepsakes to remind them of their life experiences.

 

Most people have acquired so much “stuff” as they have gone through life, that the thoughts of going through it and sorting it – deciding what to keep and what to toss or donate (if anything) – become such a daunting challenge that it is not seriously attempted.

 

People find that financially it is very difficult to replace what they have now also – in terms of size, layout, monthly payments (if any), neighborhood, features, and other attributes. Add to that the thought of packing up everything and moving someplace else and starting the settling-in process all over, and it’s easy to see why people want to stay put.

 

Then, we come along – knowing how committed people are to remaining in their current homes – and simply help them evaluate how well their home meets their needs, what can be done to enhance their living experience, help them arrive at a sensible budget for undertaking some improvements that will allow them to live better in the home, and get started on the work.

 

We should consider it an honor to help people retain their independence and achieve their objective of remaining in their homes.

 

 

 

Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a highly regarded, much in demand, and widely recognized Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor, Universal Design Master-Instructor, aging in place thought-leader, and senior safety consultant throughout North America and beyond. His students have come from nearly every state, many areas of Canada, and several other nations around the world to attend his classroom sessions and his online webinars, to subscribe to his blog posts, and to engage his coaching. Visit: https://www.stevehoffacker.com

Keeping Loved Ones Safe: Fall Prevention Tips for Seniors

 

Preventing falls is one of the biggest concerns that family caregivers face. Falls have a lot of consequences for older adults. For one, there is the very real risk of falls leading to severe injury and even death, especially if the senior has no resources to get help in their time of need. Potential issues can range from broken bones to even brain injuries. Even if older adults are unharmed by their falls, fear of future injury can lead to changes in lifestyle and inability to enjoy activities they once did. Here are some key ways to start preventing falls:

1. Keep the home clear. One of the biggest things that lead to falls is basic clutter, especially since it’s easy to forget that item is in place. If regular cleaning is too much for a senior to do, consider either paying a visit on a regular basis to check the home or even hiring a professional for some basic cleaning. Certain home fixtures like loose carpet and rugs also present an added risk.

2. Modify the bathroom. The combination of slippery floors and hard surfaces mean a fall in a bathroom can do some serious damage. Something as simple as installing a grab bar or toilet safety frame can cut down on risk significantly. In addition, there is such a thing as slip-resistant flooring if you are planning a remodel.

3. Have a discussion with your loved one’s doctor. This may be a surprising method of fall prevention, but in some cases, certain medications can lead to dizziness or light-headedness. The doctor may be able to recommend alternatives or give your aging family member advice on when to take certain medications to avoid falling.

4. Provide proper lighting. Along with cluttering, one of the major issues that makes a home unsafe is fall hazards obscured in darkness, especially at night. Good things to do on top of buying more powerful bulbs for seniors, are making sure that you give extra lighting in certain areas. This can include bathrooms, hallways and cooking area. Even a night light in the bedroom can go a long way.

5. Use some added support. In some cases, walking aids and other similar items can do a lot to lower the risk of falling, but there’s a variety of new technology and tools that help deal with these various issues. One interesting example is a wearable airbag worn like a belt to help prevent falls. If this sounds like a bit much, you may be better served just looking into something like a medical alert system. Getting medical help quickly can keep falls from becoming a major health issue.

Think of this as a basic guide for helping your aging loved ones prevent falls. Every home and environment is different, and every senior has a different health profile that affects their chances of falling. The best thing you can do is be prepared. This means not only using all the above tips, but also looking into other resources to stay on top of other advances in technology and practices behind fall prevention.

if you are concerned, it may be a good idea to have a trained professional to do a comprehensive home safety assessment. Look for a certified Senior Home Safety Specialist™, Occupational Therapist or Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) in your area.