February is Heart Month, a time when people of all ages can focus on their heart health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), adults age 65 and older are more likely than younger people to suffer from cardiovascular disease, aka problems with the heart, blood vessels, or both. At ApexHealth, we like to say, “Long Live Life.” It’s important to know your risks and how to take care of your heart. Here are some tips for living a heart-healthy lifestyle so that you can make heart health a priority all year-round.
1. Be active
Make an effort to move more! Start by walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Participating in regular physical activity helps improve your overall health, fitness, and quality of life. It can also help reduce your risk of chronic conditions including heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week alongside muscle-strengthening activities at least 2 days a week. If you have heart disease (or another chronic condition) it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the appropriate level and intensity of exercise. And don’t forget about your fitness benefit! We wrote about how we can help support your fitness goals in a previous blog post.
2. Choose healthy meals
There are certain diets that can help prevent heart disease and stroke and also reduce risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. One of these is the Mediterranean diet, a type of meal pattern that’s rich in plant-based whole foods like fruits, vegetables, bread and other whole grains, potatoes, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil. The Mediterranean diet also includes some low-fat dairy products, eggs, fish and poultry. Learn more by watching this video from the John Hopkins Medicine. Remember to discuss any diet changes with your doctor.
3. Quit smoking
According to the CDC, smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the U.S. Quitting smoking helps benefit your heart and blood vessels. Also, studies show that quitting smoking can reduce a heavy smoker’s risk of heart disease within five years.
4. Cut down on alcohol and sugary drinks
The CDC reminds us to “rethink our drink” and recommends replacing sugary drinks with water to reduce calories. Sugary drinks include energy drinks, fruit drinks, regular soda (not sugar-free), sports drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with sugar added. Also, if you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
5. Check your blood pressure
Remember that even if you’re healthy, it’s important for you to have your blood pressure checked regularly. As you get older, changes in your arteries can lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). The CDC suggests monitoring your blood pressure at home using a self-measured blood pressure monitor (SMBP). They are easy to use, and your doctor can show you how. ApexHealth members can order a blood pressure monitor through your OTC benefit. Flip to the Home Diagnostic & Patient Aids section of your OTC Catalog for coverage of a manual blood pressure monitor.
6. Visit your doctor
Regular checkups with your doctor are important because early heart disease doesn’t have symptoms, or symptoms may not be noticeable. Make sure you know your heart health history including your risks by talking to your family and your doctor.
If you are prescribed or instructed to take medicine to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, make sure you follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and ask any questions you might have. Don’t stop taking your medication unless you talk to your doctor.
Taking these steps above can help you live life boldly. And don’t forget, ApexHealth is a Medicare Advantage plan that has your back. Give us a call at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711) to speak with an ApexAssistant. Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31. For all matters related to your medical health, we recommend contacting your doctor or healthcare provider.