February is officially known as American Heart Month, a national campaign that’s all about raising awareness for heart-healthy lifestyles. As the effort is mainly focused on everyday Americans, you can join in by talking to your patients about lowering their risk for heart disease. The illness remains the number-one cause of death in the U.S.
The medical community wants to remind patients that this disease can happen at any age. We tend to associate it with older patients, but providers are seeing some disturbing trends among younger generations that can signal development of it later on in life. The sooner you intervene as a healthcare provider, the better off your patients will be.
Celebrate American Heart Month all February with these helpful tips.
Tips for Keeping Your Patients Healthy
When examining your patients, it’s important to remember that certain health indicators can quickly worsen over time, especially if some of your patients lead sedentary lifestyles or have trouble giving up their less-than-healthy habits. Keep an eye out for the following warning signs for heart disease and talk to your patients about lowering their risk:
- High Blood Pressure
Around one third of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, and nearly half of them do not have it under control. Over time, this health condition can damage the heart. Half of adults (30 million) with readings at or above 140/90 mm Hg who should be taking medication for it either haven’t been prescribed any meds or aren’t taking what has been prescribed.
- High Cholesterol
Monitor your patients’ cholesterol to help them avoid more serious conditions down the line. If their cholesterol levels remain elevated, talk to them about eating a healthier diet and getting more exercise. Cholesterol build-up can increase blood pressure and contribute to blood clots.
- Lack of Physical Activity
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends getting at least 2½ hours of physical activity each week—which is just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If your patients are gaining weight, suffering from stress, or having trouble sleeping, encourage them to get more exercise to improve their overall health. Talk to them about working out at home or changing up their daily routine if they do not have access to a gym. Only 1 in 5 adults meets these physical activity guidelines.
- Obesity, Diabetes, and Poor Diet
Diets high in trans fat, salt, saturated fat, and added sugar increase the risk for heart disease. Encourage your patients to steer clear from processed foods like pre-made dinners, soups, rice, and frozen foods, which tend to contain a lot of sodium. Talk to them about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Obesity and diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease, so pay special attention to those suffering from these conditions.
According to the CDC, more than 37 million U.S. adults currently smoke, and thousands of young people start each day. When your patients smoke, it forces their hearts to work harder than they normally would. The habit can also lead to high blood pressure, blood clots, and the buildup of plaque, cholesterol, fat, and other particles that can lead to stroke and heart disease. Talk to your patients about the long-term risks of smoking and encourage them to quit for good.
How to Get Involved
Talking to your patients may only be half the battle. You can set a good example for the community by leading an active lifestyle, losing weight, eating healthier throughout the day, and quitting smoking.
Here are some other ideas to help you motivate your patients, loved ones, and colleagues:
- Start a community exercise group for hiking, walking, jogging, or running.
- Host a potluck with healthy dishes and meals to inspire your loved ones.
- Encourage your patients and loved ones to monitor their health, including blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight, and help them set specific goals for their heart.
- Blog about your experiences and share your stories on social media. Use the hashtag #OurHearts to stay in the conversation.
- Post flyers and heart-healthy information around your workplace.
- Consider partnering with local gyms, healthy restaurants, and weight loss programs to create a discount program or dual marketing campaigns to help spread the word.
- Partner with a local hospital to increase the rate of screenings for blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body mass index (BMI).
- Reach out to local representatives and healthcare administrators and advocates, and encourage them to speak out on these issues.
Do your part to bring an end to heart disease and keep your patients in the know. We’re starting to see symptoms and warning signs in people who are in their 30s and 40s, which reminds us that no one is immune to this disease. Keep these tips in mind to keep your patients as healthy as possible.