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
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 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 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.”
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 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
The holidays are here! For many people, seniors included, this means family gatherings, more shopping expeditions, and possibly a bit of travel.
Here are a few holiday safety tips for seniors to make this a safe and healthy end of 2018.
- Remember to make sure you have any necessary medication (and even a bit extra) before the festive season starts. The last thing you want to deal with is running out on Christmas Day when all the pharmacies are closed. Make sure you pack all your medication if you are going away – preferably keep everything in its original containers, especially if you are going overseas.
- Don’t be tempted to climb up onto ladders and chairs to put up decorations, especially if you are at home on your own. Nasty accidents have happened this way.
- Crowded shopping centers can be both overwhelming and dangerous if you are slightly less steady on your feet. Give a relative a shopping list, or go to the shops the minute they open and before the crowds arrive.
- Do make plans for the festive season in advance, especially if you are on your own. Loneliness and depression can be very real problems over the holiday time. Also be aware that large family gatherings can be noisy and confusing, so try to limit the time you are exposed to them if you find it overwhelming.
- If you are in someone else’s house, take care not to trip over slippery rugs, or fall over kids’ toys. Be very aware of your changed surroundings, especially when you are in rooms with tiled surfaces, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Also limit your alcohol intake as a glass or two too many can make you accident-prone.
- Watch what you eat, especially if you have a condition such as diabetes. There could be hidden carbohydrates in unfamiliar foods. If you have digestive disorders of any kind, you will ultimately be happy if you avoid the temptation of festive fare in excess.
- If you are driving to a holiday destination, try and choose a travelling time that doesn’t fall in peak times such as long weekends or the day schools break up. Use the fact that you are not tied to a job or school terms to your advantage.
- Rather than spending the day on your own, invite a friend/neighbor or two over. Divide the cooking between you. There is no need for anyone to be miserable on any of these holidays.
The presence of a lever door handle does not appear as anything special but is easy to use and looks stylish
A possible misconception about creating aging in place improvements or designs is that they need to address the specific needs of the client in ways that are noticeable to the client – and others. We know that if someone has a ramp installed when it wasn’t there previously that it going to be an obvious improvement – at least in the short-term. However, depending on how it is installed, its placement on the property, and any landscaping or other design treatments that are used to soften its appearance and provide a little privacy for the user, it does not need to garner all of the attention as the main thing that someone notices as they approach the property.
Ramps are becoming quite popular and rank as one of the most requested and completed aging in place projects. Nevertheless, they can be constructed in a way that allows them to blend into the home’s exterior design as an integral part of it rather than something that has been added.
This is the point of effective aging in place design and how universal design as a strategy helps us to implement changes that our clients need without calling attention to those changes. We want our clients to function well within their living space (and the area immediately around their home), and we can create improvements that are integrated into the home’s design rather than appearing as an addition – inside or out.
Safety considerations are a classic example of this. We can go through a client’s home and make several safety improvements that allow them to live in their home more effectively but aren’t necessarily obvious or even noticeable. For instance, if we add more lighting in a space – additional fixtures, increased lumens, or higher Kelvin ratings – the additional brightness might be noticeable but not the fact that it is easier to see in that space, that it is less likely that someone will trip over something on the floor because it wasn’t as visible previously, or that the space seems bigger and more pleasant. We don’t even need to inform the client why we performed this improvement – as long as they are pleased with the results.
There are many types of similar improvements that can be done to increase the function or effectiveness of the client’s living space without calling out what was done or why. If we add a safety bar (also known as a grab bar, safety assist, and similar names) near the entrance to the tub or shower in the bathroom, it is going to be noticeable – even though it is highly recommended. On the other hand, if we incorporated a grab bar into a towel bar or toilet paper holder so that it looked like the item that was expected only a little fancier, we would have increased client safety without letting them know what we did or why other than to add a little visual interest to their towel bar, soap dish, corner shelf, or paper holder.
In the kitchen, if we replaced small round or square door or drawer pulls that often are difficult to grasp and use with larger bar-style pulls that allow a person’s fingers to get behind it and pull it open, it might be noticeable as a different type of pull but not as one that is more effective to use (at least not until the client had experienced it) and easier on the hands and fingers. Similarly, if we made sure those new pulls did not have extensions on them past the mounting posts that could catch clothing or skin, they would be considerably safer but likely totally unnoticeable as an improvement over the type that has such extensions.
There are many other common improvements that we use for aging in place that likely go unnoticed because they are so common and attractive. Consider rocker light switches that are often installed in place of the older style toggle controls – or even using motion sensor light switches to turn lights on and off. Lever door handles used in place or round knobs likely won’t draw any notice because they are so frequently used, but they are effective nonetheless.
In the kitchen especially, and often in the bathroom as well, using a single-lever faucet is effective and quite common as well. No one is likely to comment on it being different or question why it is being used over a two-handle style.
There are many design features that we can use in creating effective aging in place improvements that are not especially noticeable as being special or different – or suggest why they have been used – that we can install for our clients to provide safer and more functional living spaces for them.
Guest Post by Steve Hoffacker:
Steve is an award-winning aging-in-place specialist-instructor (NAHB, “2015 CAPS Educator of the Year”), a universal design trainer-instructor, and award-winning new home sales trainer. Steve has written and published several books on universal design, aging-in-place, and new home sales. Since 2007, he has educated hundreds of remodelers, general contractors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, health care professionals, interior designers, kitchen and bath designers, architects, attorneys, durable medical equipment providers, building materials manufacturers, university faculty, local and regional governmental and non-profit housing agencies.
For more great articles Visit: https://www.stevehoffacker.com/blog/
Get ready for winter! Take steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe with home maintenance. When you start feeling those first hints of winter, the instinct to get ready kicks in. You may dig out your car’s snow brush, blanket, shovel and winter survival kit and place them in the trunk of your car. The winter coats and boots come out of storage, and you may pick up some extra mittens.
But what do you do to protect your house against the hazards of winter? If you don’t take time for maintenance and winterization now, you can end up paying for it later, in the form of higher energy bills, frozen pipes or fixing a broken furnace.
Here are four common problems that can hit home during the winter and how you can ward them off.
Sky-high energy bills: Do your electric bills rise during the wintertime? Heating your home accounts for about half of your home’s energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Combat the cold by sealing off any cracks or gaps with caulk and inspect entrances for worn or broken weatherstripping. Schedule a furnace inspection with an HVAC contractor and consider installing a smarter thermostat. Learning thermostats can remember your favorite temperatures, turning down when you leave for work, and returning to your favorite temp at the end of the day.
Water leaks: According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage accounts for half of all property damage claims. Add winter’s freezing temperatures to the mix, and you can end up with a big problem if your home has a power outage or your furnace malfunctions.
For extra peace of mind, there’s now a leak and flood protection system you can purchase that shuts off your water main’s supply when it detects leaks – and sends an alert to your smart device. LeakSmart Snap installs in seconds without any tools or the need to cut into the main water supply line. Wireless sensors placed around the house can detect a leak or temperature changes and shut down the whole house water supply in seconds. It is compatible with LeakSmart Hub 3.0, which offers battery back-up and built in Wi-Fi for 24/7 whole home protection.
Power outages: When a winter storm hits, the ice and wind can break power lines and interrupt the supply of electricity to our homes. It’s not uncommon for some outages to last for days, which is why it’s always smart to be prepared.
Before winter hits, make certain your generator or other backup power source has ample fuel and is in good working order. Keep basic supplies at the ready, so you can keep your family comfortable. Make sure you have extra blankets, stocking caps, batteries and fully charged power banks for your mobile phones. It’s also good to have a few gallons of fresh water and some cans of ready-to-eat chili and stew. If you have a camp stove, keep it in an easy-to-reach place, along with a fuel supply.
Ice dams: Another thing to watch for in the winter are pools of water forming on your roof. These can be caused by ridges of snow and ice, and eventually cause leaks to the interior of your home. Ice dams can also lead to the formation of large, pointy icicles that hang from the gutters, which can fall and injure people.
A little work upfront can go a long way toward preventing ice dams and the damage they can cause. First, make sure the gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and other yard debris, so the snowmelt has a place to go. Next, poke your head into the crawlspace of your attic and see if the insulation layer is still thick enough to keep the heat from escaping through the roof. While you’re up there, look for gaps and leaks. Finally, this is an appropriate time to invest in a simple snow rake, so you can easily remove wet, heavy snow from your roof before the dams can start forming.
Now that you know the most common winter hazards that can hit home, you can take the steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe.
To learn more about protecting your home, visit LeakSmart.com.