, Gloucester, MA

September 13, 2013

Lifestyle changes can improve cardiac outcomes

Senior Lookout
Anne Springer

---- — Approximately one year ago, the federal Department of Health and Human Services initiated a project that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years. Called Million Hearts, this initiative is designed to empower Americans to help improve health and reduce disability.

Cardiovascular disease is expensive — more than $444 billion per year in medical costs and lost productivity. Sadly, heart disease also causes one of three deaths in America, and is responsible for 17 percent of our national health spending, according to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

According to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, through “community-based prevention, the initiative will encourage efforts to reduce smoking, improve nutrition, and reduce blood pressure. It will implement the cardiovascular-disease–prevention priorities of the National Quality and National Prevention Strategies and help in meeting targets set by Healthy People 2020.”

Within the past three years, seniors on Medicare have benefited from the new provisions of the Affordable Care Act by receiving access to preventive services, including cholesterol checks and annual wellness visits, with no part B coinsurance or deductibles. Hopefully, even more people will take advantage, and have their risk assessed, now that there’s less financial burden associated with wellness services.

Last week, in this space, the importance of cholesterol on cardiovascular issues was discussed. Additionally, there are other things that older people, and everyone, can do to reduce the risk for heart disease, and improve the greater good in America. These include avoiding tobacco use, and reducing one’s consumption of sodium and trans fat (read those food labels!). Reducing the number of people who become consumers of expensive medical care is a patriotic thing to do, in addition to just caring for oneself to avoid illness. This week, remembering the Sept. 11 tragedy, perhaps its well to remember that it is also a tragedy to lose a single life to a preventable cause.

People who are interested in taking their own steps to prevent heart disease can take advantage of the American Heart Association’s Heart Attack Risk Calculator, to see if they are presently at risk. AHA also provides an online health management tool for heart patients, called Heart 360.

Also, people are encouraged to know their cholesterol levels, and their blood pressure.

The National Institutes for Health cite these risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, being overweight, being physically inactive, having a family history of heart disease, and age (55 or older for women). Many of these factors are something we can do something about!

If you are interested in the Million Hearts initiative, you can visit its web page,, and find it on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The Million Hearts 2013 Hypertension Control Challenge is open until Sept. 30 to clinicians and medical practices that care for hypertension patients. Find out more at

We should all be taking care of our health and our hearts! SeniorCare contributes to the effort by operating some evidence-based wellness programs that help people manage chronic conditions or learn to eat better. For more information, or to get a brochure, contact SeniorCare at 978-281-1750.

Anne Springer is the public relations director of SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging. To reach SeniorCare, call 978-281-1750.