Heart disease and stroke are the first and fourth leading causes of death in the United States, and heart disease is responsible for 1 of every 4 deaths in the country. In recognition of American Heart Month in February, the Home Health Quality Improvement (HHQI) National Campaign encourages home health providers to educate your patients, your loved ones, and yourselves about preventive steps that can be taken to decrease cardiovascular risk.
The ABCS are the pillars of preventive cardiovascular care — Aspirin as Appropriate, Blood Pressure Control, Cholesterol Management, and Smoking Cessation. By developing resources, tools and partnerships that focus on improvements in these four areas, the national Million Hearts® initiative aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the United States by 2017.
Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put you at a higher risk for developing heart disease. In support of Million Hearts® and American Heart Month, HHQI will be sharing specific tips for improving cardiovascular health on our Facebook page every day in February, but below are some of the basics for protecting yourself from heart disease.
Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—adults should have at least 5 servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure. For more information on healthy diet and nutrition, visit CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program website and ChooseMyPlate.gov.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. For more information, see CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Program website.
Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at a doctor’s office. Find more information at CDC’s High Blood Pressure website.
Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years. Talk with your doctor about this simple blood test. You can find out more from CDC’s High Cholesterol website.
HHQI has also developed new Best Practice Intervention Packages and customized data reports designed to improve preventive cardiovascular care by focusing on the ABCS. As with all of HHQI’s resources, these materials are free of charge.