Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, it is largely preventable and there are many things people can do to reduce their risk, such as being more active. Research shows that physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, even for those at high genetic risk.
Physical activity can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, but only about 22 percent of adults meet the federal Physical Activity Guidelines. NHLBI encourages Americans to spend at least 2 1/2 hours per week of physical activity that gets your heart beating faster and leaves you a little breathless. There are flexible ways to break it into amounts of daily activity, and even small amounts add up and can have lasting heart health benefits.
Just like an engine makes a car go, your heart keeps your body running. As you grow older, some changes in the heart and blood vessels are normal, but others are caused by disease. Choices you might make every day can contribute to heart disease.
Do you smoke? Are you overweight?
Do you spend the day sitting at a desk or in front of the TV?
Do you avoid doing exercise?
Do you drink a lot of alcohol?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, making healthy lifestyle changes might help you prevent or delay heart disease.
Take the following steps to keep your heart healthy:
Be more physically active. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most or all days of the week. Every day is best. It doesn’t have to be done all at once —10-minute periods will do. Start by doing activities you enjoy —brisk walking, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or playing basketball or tennis.
If you smoke, quit. It’s never too late to get some benefit from quitting smoking.
Follow a heart healthy diet. The single most important step you can take for heart health starts with what you put on your plate. Choose low-fat foods and those that are low in salt. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and foods high in fiber. Following a healthy eating plan and being physically active might help you.
Keep a healthy weight. Your healthcare provider can check your weight and height to learn your BMI (body mass index). A BMI of 25 or higher means you are at risk for heart disease, as well as diabetes and other health conditions. Following a healthy eating plan and being physically active might help you.
Falls can be prevented.
Here are some simple things you can do to keep yourself from falling.
Talk to Your Doctor
- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider to evaluate your risk for falling and talk with them about specific things you can do.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines to see if any might make you dizzy or sleepy. This should include prescription medicines and over-the counter medicines.
- Ask your doctor or healthcare provider about taking vitamin D supplements with calcium.
Do Strength and Balance Exercises
Do exercises that make your legs stronger and improve your balance. Tai Chi is a good example of this kind of exercise.
Have Your Eyes Checked
Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year, and be sure to update your eyeglasses if needed.
It you have bifocal or progressive lenses, you may want to get a pair of glasses with only your distance prescription for outdoor activities, such as walking. Sometimes these types of lenses can make things seem closer or farther away than they really are.
Make Your Home Safer
- Get rid of things you could trip over.
- Add grab bars inside and outside your tub or shower and next to the toilet.
- Put railings on both sides of stairs.
- Make sure your home has lots of light by adding more or brighter light bulbs.
You don’t need to be a Red Sox fan to understand the value of being “safe at home.” One of the criteria of an older adult’s residence qualifying as “Home Sweet Home” is that it has to be a safe environment, free from the threat of accidents, and accessible if mobility-impaired.
We live in an era of aging population. There are more people over the age of 65 than ever before. As a matter of fact, in all of history 2/3s of the entire group of people who have ever lived beyond the age of 65 are alive right now, because of growing population and longevity.
As we get older, most people are intent about aging-in-place, about enjoying the comforts of their own home, and delaying the eventual transition to a care facility for as long as they can. 90% of all seniors are adamant about wanting to keep their independence, which unfortunately, is jeopardized by predictable accidents that frequently result in an injury, pain, a hospital admission, rehab, extended-stay facility, or worse.
The good news is that accidents in the home (where the majority of senior accidents occur), to a great extent, can be avoided. Falls in particular, the most common and harmful of all accidents, are the threat that sets into immediate motion the irrevocable loss of prized independence.
The problem is seniors who are still relatively active, lucid, and spry, tend to ignore the possibility that they could be a victim of an accident (in the house, no less!). Often times it is only the occurrence of an accident that forces the senior to confront their mortality and admit they aren’t as “bullet-proof” as they once thought.
Family members, often the offspring, tend to be more realistic about the need and benefits to accident-proof a parent’s home. By having a caring and candid conversation about the likelihood of a fall (one in three seniors over the age of 65 will take a fall this year), the son or daughter can demonstrate their genuine concern and awareness of the situation by arranging an in-home safety audit, and following through without delay on remedial action.
Most in-home accidents are generally quite easy to prevent. It is a matter of diligently identifying hazards, which means one has to know where to look for possible clues that lead to the circumstances that could cause a fall. Falls occur because of a sudden and startling loss of balance. We could probably overcome a slight loss of balance if we were somewhat prepared for its eventuality under the circumstances. Given adequate warning – grab a hand rail on steep stairs – we might be able to survive the debilitating effects of a fall by countering gravity with our strength and agility.
We need a sharp eye and a healthy cynicism to detect what circumstances can violate the seemingly safe home of a parent. The home is so familiar to us we hardly take note of subtle threats. Admit it: when was the last time you changed the batteries in your folk’s smoke/fire detector? Observed whether their bathroom meets current safety standards? Checked out the lighting and stairs to the basement? Secured a throw rug to a floor? The list of possible hazards goes on – some subtle, others blatant – and it’s not limited to the interior of the house; the exterior of the house should be surveyed for accident risk as well.
Eliminating every recognized hazard typically becomes a family mandate; the cost of an accident in terms of emotional, physical, and financial factors is for most victims and caregivers simply unacceptable. You can’t prioritize home-safety risks, because any small or presumed low-risk objective can be the ugly deed that ultimately undoes your best intention for a safe home. You are only reasonably safe when every threat has been purged or mitigated, and that safe status tends to be a point in time. Safety is actually a perpetual challenge that needs periodic management because of the dynamic nature of the home environment – bulbs burn out, floor spills happen, throw rugs become disheveled, etc.
The elimination of identified threats is relatively inexpensive and can be accomplished by anyone reasonably handy, or subbed-out to a competent home-safety contractor. While many risks in the home can be properly contained with simple corrective action, a myriad of products and solutions are available from various sources to deal with safety situations; solutions range from safety grab bars to fire escape ladders, from motion detector lights to appropriate fire suppressors, from security systems to monitoring devices, etc. – there is seldom a home safety threat that cannot be neutralized with the right response.
Admittedly, the age-in-home safety objective becomes a bit more complicated after the resident has become mobility-challenged (elderly who rely on crutches, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs): stairs become unmanageable if not impossible, doorways become impassable to wheel chairs, bathing is difficult at best, and so it goes. Appropriate modifications to the home can be made to accommodate those afflicted and enable the resident to live at home rather than automatically being shuttled to the care facility.
Living to a grand old age is a reward in and of itself; seniors no longer have to risk that gift by living with avoidable risk. Prudence, awareness, strategy, and solutions are all that is needed to face the threat of accidents and eliminate the risks that cause them.
The seniors in our community deserve to enjoy their golden years by safely aging-in-place, in their own homes. Risk reduction can keep them safe while delivering on their cherished desire – independence.
John Burke is a trained Senior Home Safety Specialist™ and Age Safe® America Advisor Member.
Visit his website www.ACCIVENT.com or call him at 978-835-8588.
The RAISE Family Caregivers Act would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and sustain a national strategy to recognize and support family caregivers in the United States. This bipartisan legislation has been endorsed by over 60 aging and disability organizations, including the AARP, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Arc.
Across America, 40 million family caregivers help parents, spouses, children and adults with disabilities and other loved ones to live independently. They prepare meals, handle finances, manage medications, drive to doctors’ appointments, help with bathing and dressing, perform complex medical tasks and more, all so loved ones can live at home. They spend an estimated 37 billion hours annually delaying or preventing more costly care and unnecessary hospitalizations.
The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act (S. 1028/H.R. 3759) would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop, maintain and update a strategy to recognize and support family caregivers. The bill would bring representatives from the private and public sectors, such as family caregivers; older adults and persons with disabilities; veterans; providers of health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS); employers; state and local officials; and others together to advise and make recommendations regarding this new strategy.
“Family caregivers are the backbone of our care system in America. We need to make it easier for them to coordinate care for their loved ones, get information and resources, and take a break so they can rest and recharge,” said Nancy A. LeaMond, AARP’s chief advocacy and engagement officer.
The goals of the strategy include identifying actions that government, communities, health providers, employers and others can take to support family caregivers, including:
- Promoting greater adoption of person-centered care and family-centered care in health settings and long-term care settings
- Training for family caregivers
- Respite options for family caregivers
- Ways to increase financial security for family caregivers
- Workplace policies to help family caregivers keep working
- Collecting and sharing of information about innovative family caregiving models
- Assessing federal programs around family caregiving
- Addressing disparities and meeting the needs of the diverse caregiving population
Age Safe® America is very grateful for all the blessings we have received this past year! We are also grateful for all the passionate individuals we are attracting to further our mission throughout the US and Canada in 2018!
Here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!
Age Safe® Live Well.
Where we live defines how we live.
Age Safe® America wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas filled with Joy, Love, Hope and Peace.