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Hospice Care Shares the Worst Risk Factors For Your Heart

When it comes to our hearts, we often don’t take the care we should to ensure it keeps on ticking well into old age. But there are many risk factors to keep in mind, from those that you can’t control like gender and family history to those that you can, like smoking and uncontrolled hypertension. Many heart patients enter hospice from a referral from their cardiologist. These patients often suffer from congestive heart failure, chest pain at rest, history of cardiac arrest, arrhythmias, and unexplained fainting caused by loss of blood to the brain, according to the American Heart Association.

The World Heart Federation has a goal: by 2025, to reduce premature mortality from cardiovascular disease by 25%. Understanding the risks and changing behaviors will play a major part in achieving that goal. It’s a fact that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a leading cause of death and disability around the world. Take time this September 29, World Heart Day, to examine your risk for heart disease and vow to get healthier.

Knowing Your Risk

Knowing the risks associated with heart problems is half the battle. According to the CDC, nearly half of all Americans (about 47%) have at least one of three top risk factors for heart disease. Those include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking

There are two types of risk: modifiable and non-modifiable.

First, non-modifiable risk factors are those that you cannot change, including:

  • Family history: If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55 or your mother or sister suffered one before 65, you have an elevated risk of heart disease yourself. If both of your parents were diagnosed with heart disease before 55, your risk increases to 50%.
  • Diabetes: Those with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those who don’t have it. Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for people with diabetes?
  • Age: Getting older is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in itself. In terms of stroke, this risk doubles every decade after the age of 55.
  • Gender: Men are at greater risk than pre-menopausal women. Post-menopausal women have a similar risk to that of men.
  • Ethnicity: African or Asian ancestry poses a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than other ethnic groups.
  • Socioeconomic status: If you are poor, your risk of heart disease and stroke is higher due to stress, social isolation, lack of access to quality medical care, anxiety and depression.

Modifiable risks, as noted above, are those within your control. Changing lifestyles and bad behaviors can lessen your chance of suffering from heart disease later in life. Let’s go over some modifiable risk factors:

  • Physical inactivity: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for mortality around the world, resulting in 3.2 million deaths globally. Regular moderate-intensity physical activity (think walking, cycling or sports) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. In addition, it can decrease the risk of a hip or vertebral fracture, another big concern for the elderly population.
  • Smoking: Tobacco has long been linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease. This substance damages the blood vessel linings, increases fatty deposits within arteries, boosts clotting, and promotes coronary artery spasms, just to name a few. Women who smoke have a greater risk of heart attack than men.
  • Diet: Eating lots of saturated fats elevates the risk of heart disease and stroke, causing more than 30% of coronary heart disease and more than 10% of stroke around the world. Saturated and trans fats can elevate blood cholesterol level. Consuming too much sodium leads to hypertension, which as noted above is one of the top risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Abuse of alcohol can damage heart muscle and increase risk of cardiac arrhythmia, blood pressure, acute myocardial infarction and cardiomyopathy.
  • Weight: Those who are overweight or obese can be at a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis, placing them in a higher risk category for cardiovascular disease.

Hospice and Heart Disease

Controlling these risk factors early on gives you a higher prognosis for a healthier life. However, the fact is that many patients enter hospice care with Stage D heart failure (HF), advanced congestive heart failure or advanced coronary disease with frequent episodes of angina. The hospice care team will evaluate the patient’s status and update the plan of care as needed. Steps are taken to reduce the physical pain and emotional distress so patients remain comfortable. From monitoring and managing symptoms to communicating with the patient’s cardiologist, hospice can assist with difficult decisions and provide respite care.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To learn more about hospice and heart disease, please contact us at 888-755-7855. We can provide medical, nursing, and personal care, as well as practical, spiritual and emotional support for both patients and their loved ones during this difficult time.