Every 40 seconds in the United States, somebody has a heart attack. As shocking as that statistic is, it is important to recognize it and take important steps to eradicate heart disease once and for all. February is American Heart Month, and at eternalHealth we want to encourage all of our readers to focus on their cardiovascular wellness this month and all year long. Read on to learn six easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart-related illness.
1. Learn Your Risks
At least 47% of all Americans have at least one of three key risk factors of heart disease, so it is important to recognize them and ensure you are doing all you can to minimize your risk. These three risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Additionally, things like age, lifestyle, and family history can increase your heart disease risk significantly and while it is not possible to change things like family history and age, it is good to know our personal history so you can make choices that will lower your risks. Not getting enough physical activity, smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating a diet in high saturated fats are simple things that can be adjusted, and can make a huge difference in your heart health.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Heart healthy eating is an easy way to reduce your risk of heart disease, and find some new, delicious recipes at the same time. Making changes to a diet that consist of high levels of saturated and trans fats, to a diet consisting of more vegetables, whole grains, and protein rich foods, can lower high blood pressure and the “bad” LDL cholesterol in the body. Foods such as leafy greens, oatmeal, brown rice, salmon, chickpeas, avocado, and even dark chocolate are all great choices to add to your diet to start to build a heart-healthy foundation. We want to make it easy for you to purchase healthy food items, which is why we include a Healthy Grocery Benefit* with our plans. Shop and compare here to learn more.
3. Move More, Sit Less
Less than half of adults 65 and older meet physical activity guidelines. Implementing regular physical activity can make a world of difference when it comes to your cardiovascular health and can significantly lower your risk of heart disease. Small amounts of moderate exercise can lower blood pressure, maintain healthy body weight, reduce inflammation, and lessen your risk of developing diabetes. Regular exercise can also reduce stress hormones that put an extra burden on the heart, increase HDL or “good” cholesterol, and improves muscles abilities to pull oxygen out of the blood, reducing the amount of work on the heart. As a member of eternalHealth’s Medicare Advantage plans, we make adding fitness into your regular routine easy! With our fitness benefit, enjoy a membership to local and national fitness facilities, free at-home workout kits, and access to over 28,000 on demand workouts that you can do anywhere at no extra cost to you!
4. Quit Smoking
Cigarette smoking is one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease in the United States and is directly responsible for 25% of cardiovascular deaths. One of the most important things people can do on their journey to be heart healthy is to quit smoking and start to heal both your heart and blood vessels. Studies have shown that no matter how long you have smoked for your risk of heart attacks or dying from cardiovascular disease can be cut by more than half when you quit! We know that quitting smoking is easier said than done, so look for support from smoking cessation groups, ask friends and family to support you, and even talk to your doctor about medications that can help during your annual wellness visits.
5. Take Medications as Directed
Medication adherence for any medical condition is one of the best ways to treat your overall wellness, but it is especially important when we are discussing cardiovascular health. Non-adherence to medication is surprisingly common, and can cause very real damage or consequences to your health. For example, if a patient with high blood pressure neglects to take their medications, that can lead to more problems such as stroke and kidney failure. If you are concerned about the medications you are taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about them, so they can give you a better understanding of how it works, the importance of taking them, and even how to manage any side effects you may be feeling. They can also be a great resource for tips on how to manage your medications, including what to do if you miss a dose. Don’t forget with an eternalHealth Medicare Advantage Plan we offer mail order prescriptions, so they arrive right at your door, and you never have to worry about missing a medication again!
6. Monitor Your Blood Pressure
As we have mentioned a few times throughout this blog, one of the most important things could do to ensure your heart health is to monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure, often called the “silent killer” causes higher than normal pressure against the walls of the heart. In turn, this can lead to weakening of the heart muscles which can cause things like strokes and heart attacks. Checking your blood pressure often can alert you to any sudden changes that may occur, so you can manage them as quickly as possible. Do this by investing in an at home blood pressure monitor, visiting your local pharmacy or grocery store where there is frequently a free blood pressure machine, or even seeing if your smartwatch has blood pressure monitoring capabilities.
While February is American Heart Month, it is important to keep your cardiovascular wellness at the forefront of your mind all year round. Using these six steps to start your journey of being heart healthy will give you a great foundation to reduce the staggering statistics around heart disease. As always check with your doctor to find the treatment plan that will work best for you!
To learn more about eternalHealth Medicare Advantage plans click here or call 1 (800) 831-9218 (TTY 711).
eternalHealth is an HMO plan with a Medicare contract for HMO and PPO offerings. Enrollment in eternalHealth depends on contract renewal.
*The benefits mentioned are a part of a special supplemental program for the chronically ill. Not all members qualify.