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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
National Family Caregivers Month acknowledges the contributions of more than 90 million family caregivers in America who are caring for their aging parents, loved ones with a chronic condition, disease or managing a disability. Join us in recognizing this invisible army of family caregivers. Caregiver Action Network is the organization that chooses the theme for National Family Caregivers Month annually and spearheads celebration of NFC Month nationally. Each year, Caregiver Action Network makes materials available for general use, including the theme, a media kit, posters, sample proclamations, etc. This year’s theme is “Supercharge Your Caregiving”
A message from Christopher MacLellan (The Bow Tie Guy), Founder of the Whole Care Network, Inc.
I Survived Caregiving; You Can Too!
November is National Family Caregivers Month and my wish for every family caregiver is that you learn early on in your caregiving journey that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Asking for help is also a key component of your self-care.
I make no bones about it, caregiving was hard.
No one plans on being a caregiver, that’s because caregiving just happens. It’s an untimely diagnosis or an unfortunate accident and suddenly, two lives or more are forever changed. Assisting with everyday task like bathing and clothing will take relationships to new levels.
Caregiving is an intense experience that will often ask you to give up things you love in order to care for the one you love. Caregiving is indiscriminate. There is no gender, economic, cultural or orientation boundaries; caregiving is in every board room and in every neighborhood. Caregiving impacts each one of us.
And the stark reality is this; there is a beginning and an end, and in most cases, we are not prepared for these lift changing events.
When caregiving ends, what are we left to do? Immersed in the care for someone else, I had to learn how to become a caregiver to myself. Easier said than done.
I truly believe there is no greater honor bestowed on us than to be entrusted with the care of another human being. Along the journey, we forget that self-care is the most important job for every caregiver.
I’ve come to learn the importance of self-care after our caregiving experienced ended. I am the poster child for want not to do after caregiving ends. Poor emotional, physical, spiritual and financial decisions compounded with complicated grief.
Caregiving is going to be different for each one of us. Yet the one thing that binds all caregivers together is story sharing. It is through story sharing where diversity meets the road to combat a common cause; our common cause is caregiving. When caregivers connect through stories, realize we are not alone and learn there is tremendous amount of support and trusted information available to us.
The most important person helped by sharing one’s caregiving story, is the caregiver!
I survived caregiving because of the real-life stories caregivers shared with me. And that is precisely why I am comfortable in sharing my caregiving story with you. Sharing my story helped me heal and allowed me to learn how to take better care of myself after caregiving ended for me.
Just as caregiving is different for everyone, finding your comfort zone in sharing your story and asking for help will be different too. But don’t despair, when you share your story with a trusted friend and colleague, you will immediately know that you are not alone.
I make no bones about it, caregiving was hard; but I would do it again in an instant if Richard was still alive today. The only thing I would do differently, is take better care of myself, just as Richard asked me to do while in the midst of caregiving.
At The Whole Care Network, we believe it is through story sharing where diversity meets the road which allows a community to impact a common cause. The Whole Care Network is a robust collection of individuals who have personal stories to share. As a byproduct of this sharing, we tap into the breadth of valuable perspectives from a diverse group of show host and guests. They share their experiences and offer further support and guidance. The goal of The Whole Care Network is to create a collective impact on issues facing family caregivers in all parts of the country and around the world. When we create a collective impact on a social issue, we collectively take ownership of the issue which makes our families, our communities, and our businesses stronger for ourselves and for future generations.
Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. CAN serves a broad spectrum of family caregivers ranging from the parents of children with special needs, to the families and friends of wounded soldiers; from a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of MS, to adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. CAN (the National Family Caregivers Association) is a non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.
Each September since 2015, the Ohio Department of Aging, through its STEADY U Ohio falls prevention initiative, has called on Ohio’s communities to raise awareness of the epidemic of older adult falls by helping to take “10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls.” One in three older adults will fall this year and falls are the leading cause of injury-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths among Ohioans age 60 and older. This year, community partners hosted 106 events and groups around the state and 16,034 individuals logged 31,273 miles, or 78.2 million steps, for the cause.
More than 16,000 Ohioans walked 31,000 miles to raise awareness of older adult falls
“It has been exciting to watch this campaign grow throughout the years, but this year exceeded even our best expectations as record numbers of communities and organizations embraced the cause of preventing older adult falls in some exciting ways,” said Beverley Laubert, director of the Ohio Department of Aging, which operates the STEADY U Ohio initiative. “Nearly twice as many groups accepted the challenge, and we were able to reach more than three times as many Ohioans with the message that falls are not a normal part of aging, and that most falls can be prevented. We are truly grateful to every Ohioan who participated.”
While older adults make up about 16 percent of our population, they account for more than 85 percent of fatal falls. An elder is injured in a fall every five minutes on average, and two older Ohioans are hospitalized each hour. Sadly, three older Ohioans will die today because of a fall-related injury. Medical costs alone for falls in Ohio total $1.1 billion. Work loss and other expenses add another $800,000 to that bill. That breaks down to $5.2 million each day.
Regular physical activity is one of the most basic things older adults can do to prevent falls, which is why walking is the focus of this annual event. Throughout September, in observation of National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, the STEADY U Ohio initiative (www.steadyu.ohio.gov) encouraged local organizations, business and groups to organize local walking events. Events and groups ranged in size from two people to more than 3,500. Some focused on the fitness walk, while others added health fairs, presentations and more.
This year’s “10 Million Steps to Prevent Falls” partners included area agencies on aging, senior housing providers and residents, hospital systems, local health departments, senior centers, state agencies, local school districts, businesses and more. Settings included parks, downtown streets, farmers’ markets, business parking lots and more, even the Toledo Zoo. Participants were provided information about falls prevention and encouraged to visit the STEADY U Ohio website for prevention tips and resources, including a falls risk self-assessment and information about “A Matter of Balance,” an evidence-based falls intervention available around the state.
“The first step was to bring people together and jumpstart the conversation in our communities. Now, it’s time to build on that success by promoting proven strategies to prevent falls in our homes, our businesses and our communities, all year long,” Laubert added.
Decreased muscle mass, vision and hearing decline, medical conditions and joint pain are some of the age-related changes that can increase falls risks. However, minor changes to the three H’s – home, health and habits – can offset these risk factors:
Home: Remove or secure throw rugs; improve lighting especially near stairs; install grab bars in the bathroom; rearrange the home to make frequently used items easier to reach.
Health: Ask your doctor about a falls risk assessment and talk about medicines you take and whether they increase your risk for falls; have your hearing and vision checked annually.
Habits: Stay active to build muscle strength and improve balance; slow down and think through tasks; stay hydrated and eat a well-balanced diet that includes calcium-rich foods; enroll in a community-based falls prevention program, such as “A Matter of Balance.”
Walking Tips for Older Adults
Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes.
Walk as quickly as you can but still hold a conversation without losing your breath.
Use a cane or walker for extra stability, if needed.
Walk with a group for added encouragement.
Talk to your doctor if you have pain, dizziness or other problems while walking.
About STEADY U Ohio –STEADY U Ohio is a comprehensive falls prevention initiative led by Governor John Kasich and the Ohio Department of Aging, and supported by Ohio government and state business partners to strengthen existing falls prevention activities, identify opportunities for new initiatives and coordinate a statewide educational campaign to bring falls prevention to the forefront of planning for individuals, families, health care providers, business and community leaders and all Ohioans. Visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.