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It’s fitting that during the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day we also recognize the importance of heart health. Over an average lifespan of 75 years, our hearts will beat more than 2.5 billion times. It’s crucial to do everything we can to keep our hearts healthy and strong.
Risk Factors for Heart Attacks
Although there are several types of heart disease, the most common is coronary artery disease – the primary cause of heart attacks. Heart attacks are the number one killer of men and women in the U.S. Several factors influence our risk of heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Genetics – a family history of heart disease
- Tobacco and alcohol use
- Age – as we age, our heart muscles weaken and plaque builds up in the arteries leading to the heart
- Extreme stress
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
Since heart disease is often silent, it’s important to know the indicators. Seeking medical help quickly could mean the difference between life and death.
- Chest pressure, tightness, or fullness
- Squeezing, pain, or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for minutes and sometimes radiates to the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw and is not relieved by rest
- Chest pain that occurs while sweating
- Fainting or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Indigestion, nausea, or vomiting
- Unexplained weakness or fatigue
- Cool or clammy skin
Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Whereas most heart attacks involve chest discomfort in the center of the chest, women are more likely than men to have symptoms unrelated to chest pain. They often experience pain in their arm, neck, back, or jaw. They may feel fatigued or weak or experience nausea or indigestion. Since symptoms may be less severe, women often don’t associate them with a heart attack. Women are also at increased risk after menopause due to lower levels of estrogen.
Reduce Your Risk
Although things like family history and genetics are out of your control, there is a lot you can do to protect your heart. Maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle can help reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Eat a healthy diet by reducing your intake of red meat, saturated fats, and processed foods. Eat more whole grains, fruits, veggies, and nuts.
- Stay active and exercise. Exercise has also been shown to improve mental health.
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol use. Smoking damages the heart and blood vessels, contributing to heart disease. Drinking can raise blood pressure.
- Get plenty of good-quality sleep.
- Learn how to manage stress.
You can find many online resources for recipes, nutrition, and exercise advice. Make sure you use reputable sources, like the ones below. Always consult with your doctor before starting an exercise regime or making major changes to your diet.
AARP Exercise, Fitness, and Workout Tips and Advice
National Council on Aging Exercise & Fitness for Older Adults
CDC Physical Activity for Older Adults
National Council on Aging 6 Ways to Eat Well as You Get Older
American Heart Association Healthy Recipes
How Your Medicare Advantage Plan Supports Prevention of Heart Disease
Many Medicare Advantage plans include benefits to help you reduce your risk of heart disease.
Annual Wellness Visits – Heart disease often goes undiagnosed, but your Annual Wellness Visit with your primary care doctor can help identify your risk factors. You and your doctor can put together a plan for how to lower your risk.
Gym benefits – Most Medicare Advantage plans include gym benefits. Many will let you work with an individual trainer to put together a fitness plan. Make sure your doctor approves.
Smoking cessation – Most Medicare Advantage plans cover smoking cessation programs to help smokers quit.
If You Are Already Diagnosed with Heart Disease
If you have already been diagnosed with chronic heart failure or certain cardiovascular disorders, you might qualify for a Medicare Chronic Condition Special Needs Plan (C-SNP). These plans are designed with benefits, provider choices, and drug formularies to fit the needs of people with specific heart conditions.
In addition, there might be good news on the horizon regarding the cost of expensive heart failure medications. The recent Inflation Reduction Actallows Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers to lower costs. It is anticipated that some of these heart drugs will be on the list of those targeted to negotiate for lower prices.
Help Save Others
We never know when, where, or who heart disease will strike. You can save a life by knowing how to perform CPR and use a defibrillator. Sign up to take a CPR class in your community.
Do you have questions? Western Asset Protection is here to help.