February is American Heart Month! Caregivers especially may benefit from learning some new facts about how to maintain heart health, since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and heart disease and stroke together cause one-third of all deaths. Even when a person survives a heart episode, he or she may still suffer from disability, reduced mobility, and decreased physical or mental functions. Aging parents may no longer be able to lift a darling grandchild, and affected spouses may have difficulty navigating stairs.
Caregivers Should Maintain Their Own Heart Health
Heart disease can strike the young, of course, but the likelihood of its occurrence increases with age. Thus, it’s important that home caregivers do what they can to prevent heart disease in their loved ones. Caregivers also need to monitor their own heart health; the stress that many caregivers experience, coupled with a lack of time to exercise or follow a healthy diet can damage heart health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging Americans to know their ABCS of heart health:
- Aspirin – Ask your doctor if you should take an aspirin every day. For some people, regular aspirin use can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Blood pressure – Find out whether you have high blood pressure, and if so, find out what you need to do to lower your blood pressure and keep it low.
- Cholesterol – Find out whether you have an unhealthy cholesterol level, and, if you do, find out what you can do to bring it down.
- Smoking – Smoking is bad for the heart. If you smoke, consider getting help to quit; it may save your heart.
The ABCS are a great start, but there are other things that you can do that are also important. For example:
- Watch what you eat. Getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables helps keep your heart happy. Keep your salt intake low. Avoid fatty foods. Your doctor can provide you with good suggestions on what to eat or recommend a nutritionist. Also, read the labels on the foods you buy so that you know how much salt and fat you’re eating.
- Keep active. Being physically active for 30 minutes each day is a good way to keep your heart in shape. You don’t have to run laps or lift weights; walking, swimming, gardening, and other “gentle” activities can help. Again, ask your doctor for advice in this area.
Heart disease is a big concern; that’s why doing everything you can to keep your heart and the hearts of your aging parents and spouses healthy is so important!