Long known as a month filled with valentines and heart-themed decorations, it’s no wonder that February was chosen as the month to highlight heart health.
The February 2021 celebration marks the 57th annual American Heart Month, and spotlights women’s heart health with a “Heart to Heart: Why Losing One Woman Is Too Many” campaign. In a time when one in three women are diagnosed with heart disease annually, this important month is a time when nurses can check their own heart health and strive to be a resource and help provide patients with accurate and timely information about heart disease.
The American Heart Association stresses the immediate need for information about heart health because of COVID-19’s direct impacts on the cardiovascular system.
As always, people can take lots of steps to keep their hearts healthy and can, in fact, prevent or mitigate a great number of serious heart disease cases. A healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in heart health and even moderate steps can have significant impact. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to have a strong heart, and it’s important to talk about small lifestyle changes with patients so they feel like they can make a difference in their own health.
What works? According to the American Heart Association, adopting a healthy lifestyle includes
- not smoking,
- maintaining a healthy weight,
- controlling blood sugar and cholesterol,
- treating high blood pressure,
- getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, and
- getting regular checkups.
And other habits can be just as important for keeping your heart in top shape. Getting enough sleep, keeping socially active with friends and loved ones, and trying to reduce the impact of stress with stress reduction practices (whether that’s a hobby or talking to a professional), all play a part in keeping your heart strong. And everyone should know the symptoms of heart attack or stroke.
Beyond lifestyle changes, do some sleuthing and find out as much as you can about your family’s heart health history. As genetic components can predispose certain families to heart disease, knowing if anyone in your family has had or currently has high blood pressure, a history of heart attacks or strokes, heart valve problems, or heart failure, can help you determine if you’re at a higher risk. It’s especially important to know the ages of these diagnoses as a family history of early heart disease can help guide your own testing and monitoring decisions.
Cardiovascular nurses treat patients with heart disease and often act as a great resource for patients. As they walk patients through their diagnoses and treatment, they are also able to help connect patients and families with other resources including nutritionists, physical therapists, support groups, and other specialists.
The Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA), believes that prevention is essential in beating heart disease and so offers plenty of heart health resources for nurses. They have handouts for nurses to give to patients to help with everything from peripheral artery disease to diabetes to hypertension. PCNA also offers free resources for health care providers to help improve their practice with additional information around improving communication, a stroke prevention guide, or a cardiovascular risk provider tool.
Heart health impacts everyone and so keeping your patients informed can help them get to a healthy place. And paying attention to your own heart health can help you keep heart disease at bay.