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  • Writer's pictureBy April Sage

Let's Chat Healthy Hearts

At an early age I learned that the heart is more than an organ keeping rhythm as I run, or a character in a good love story. It is the epicenter of our functioning aging body. I first learned of heart disease with my stepdad’s struggle with, and later passing of, a heart attack followed by my grandpa’s stroke less than a year later. The stress of these events took a heavy toll on my mom’s stress level, and she also experienced heart emergencies. I will never forget the call to 911, watching her terrified face at 42-years-old struggling for air as her heart beat out of her chest. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. and, tragically, I have learned it does not discriminate.

I have worked with families whose loved one in their 60’s, considered the life of the party and everyone’s best friend, is suddenly confined to a wheelchair with limited mobility and requiring around-the-clock care. In the blink of an eye, life as they know it changes. Retirement dreams and plans vanish in seconds due to an undetected heart issue.

Is your family prepared for a catastrophic event? Have you taken the time to discuss the tough questions to prepare yourself should something happen to one of you?

  • What do you want for yourself should something happen?

  • Who should you call for help and guidance?

  • What will happen to your financial stability?

  • Where do you want to go?

  • What matters to you most in quality of care?

  • How do you want to be taken care of?

Check out these worksheets from the National Institute on Aging. They contain helpful questions to jump-start the conversation with your doctor, no matter your age. Heart disease is rarely a standalone disease. It is typically accompanied by multi-morbidities, resulting in complex and demanding caregiving for older adults with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and multiple coexisting conditions. Do not ignore your body. If you have a history of heart disease, or any disease, be proactive. It’s time to start making some changes.

  • Visit your doctor for checkups

  • Quit smoking

  • Start moving your body with daily aerobic exercise

  • Be mindful about what you eat and put into your body

KNOW THE FACTS- According to the CDC

  • Every year approximately 805,000 people in the United States have a heart attack.

  • Of these, 605,000 are their first heart attack, and 200,000 happen to people who have already had a heart attack

  • About 1 in 5 heart attacks is silent—the damage is done, but the person is not aware of it

  • Two in 10 deaths of adults over the age of 20 is from coronary heart disease. A leading cause of death in most ethnic groups in the United States.

  • 18.2 million people under 65 have coronary heart disease

  • Heart disease is rarely the single cause of death. Most have comorbidities

  • About 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year—that’s one in every four deaths

My goal is to get families talking about their wants and needs, about their annual checkups and preventative health measures. No one wants to spend a lifetime visiting their loved one who is connected to a machine when they could be vacationing in Palm Desert or playing at the park with the grandkids. If you are without a companion, talk to your closest friend, a sibling, or someone you trust. I know someone who shared all this information with their lawyer, who is the executor of his estate and POA of his financials and health decisions. Some of the worst health neglect happens among women. As the family’s primary caregiver they aren’t paying attention to their own heart and stress levels. I would suggest checking out the “Go Red” efforts in your community. Their focus is on women and heart disease with a mission aimed at education, team efforts with community groups, and inspiring other women through testimonials about the importance of early detection. Find a group near you.

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