By: The My Medicare Matters Team
The number 1 cause of death for people age 65 and older in the United States is heart disease. While strides are being made in health care to reduce the number of people affected, it’s still not enough. Some of the most important things individuals can do to reduce their risk of heart disease is getting adequate exercise every week and taking advantage of your Medicare preventive benefits.
February is American Heart Month, so we’ve created a list of easy to do practices for you to reduce your risk for heart disease and live long and healthy lives.
1. Heart Disease Screenings
If you have Medicare you can receive a free cardiovascular heart disease screening annually, though you may need to a pay a copay depending on your coverage. Heart disease screenings check your blood pressure and cholesterol to ensure you are not at risk for a stroke or heart disease. During the screening, your doctor may provide you with tips and resources to improve your health like adjusting your eating habits and incorporating health supplements into your weekly routine.
2. Diabetes Screening & Management
Diabetes is a serious health condition that causes your body to underproduce and/or not use insulin in the right way. Over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels increasing your risk of developing heart disease. The longer you have diabetes, the higher the chance that you will develop heart disease.
If you notice unwarranted weight loss, increased urination, blurry vision or start to feel more tired, hungry, or thirstier than usual contact your doctor right away for your Medicare-covered screening. The good news is that the steps you take to manage your diabetes also help to lower your chances of having heart disease or stroke.
3. Chronic Disease Self-Management
80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 68% have at least two. If you have a chronic condition like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes you significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease along with many other conditions. Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs (CDSMP) are 6 week long interactive workshops (online or in-person) that help attendees manage conditions, improve quality of life, and lower health care cost. To find a CDSMP in your community contact your local Area Agency on Aging.
4. Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Your body is a temple and you should treat it as such. Improving your diet and making small changes to your daily routine can drastically improve your health and reduce your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions. A great first step would be reducing your intake of processed foods and adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. Medicare offers nutrition therapy that can provide advice on what to eat and help manage factors that may impact your healthy lifestyle. Smoking also increases your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions by damaging your blood vessels. Medicare also offers 8 in-person sessions a year to help beneficiaries quit smoking.