Healthy Heart Month
In 1963, President Lyndon Johnson declared February to be American Heart Month. The action marked a pivotal point in the nation's approach to addressing cardiovascular disease.
Since then, the number of deaths due to heart disease have declined in the U.S., thanks to advances in research, treatment and public education. Yet, while many advances have been made, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the U.S. and worldwide.
The good news is that the risk factors for heart disease can be modified with changes in lifestyle habits.
Dr. Noah Marco, the Jewish Home's Chief Medical Officer, says the first step is to "add more steps" to your daily routine. He continues:
At the Jewish Home, our residents are not just encouraged to walk around our beautiful campus, but to also join a variety of classes and group activities. These not only strengthen their hearts; they build their connections to our staff and other residents.
Dr. Marco says the second step is to eat natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. "Here at the Jewish Home, our amazing dieticians and kitchen staff prepare meals that are not just healthy and delicious, they are also kosher!"
Over the years, there has been an increasing awareness of how the disease affects not only men, but women. The risk factors—e.g., smoking, high cholesterol and blood pressure—remain the same between the genders. However, the differences in how men and women experience a heart attack can differ.
According to the American Heart Association, women's heart attack symptoms can be more subtle, such as shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue. Because these symptoms can be linked to acid reflux or the flu, many women may dismiss them without realizing that they are actually experiencing a heart attack.
Physicians are also paying more attention to takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known as "broken heart syndrome," as more than 90% of reported cases are in women ages 58 to 75. According to Harvard Women's Health Watch, research suggests that up to 5% of women who thought they experienced a heart attack, actually have this disorder.
The syndrome is often brought on by stressful situations and extreme emotions. Symptoms can often feel similar to those of a heart attack. These can include: chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, nausea and vomiting. But with the syndrome, there is no evidence of coronary artery obstruction. Instead, the left ventricle of the heart changes shape and increases in size. This weakens the heart muscle and means it doesn't pump blood well.
"Achieving optimal emotional health is a key step to building a healthy heart," says Dr. Marco. "Here at the Home, we've been focused on the emotional health of our residents for a long time. Shortly after someone moves in, we hear how happier and less stressed they are."