February is American Heart Month!

by Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

Heart disease prevention is important year-round.

Knowing the causes, symptoms and preventions of Heart Disease is important year-round.

February brings Valentine’s Day and heart-shaped boxes of candy, but it’s also American Heart Month. First declared by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, it was designed to bring awareness to the symptoms, causes and preventions of Heart Disease, which at that time was responsible for more than half of all deaths in this country.

Awareness and prevention have greatly increased in the half-century since the first Heart Month. As a result, heart disease has steadily declined since 1968, with fewer than 400,000 actual deaths in 2010, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The institute estimates that if 20th-century heart disease trends had continued unchecked, it would have been the cause of nearly five times as many deaths – more than 1.8 million – in 2010.

However, heart disease is still the current leading cause of death in both women and men in this country, responsible for one in four deaths in the United States. Though a heart attack is the most-often associated health risk, other serious types of heart disease include coronary artery disease (the most common), heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), cardiomyopathy (diseased heart muscle), atrial fibrillation (a type of arrhythmia), and congenital heart defects.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are numerous hereditary and environmental factors that determine an individual’s risk for heart disease. They include;

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Age/Family History/Race or ethnicity
  • Lifestyle choices such as:

->  Unhealthy Diet
->  Physical Inactivity
->  Obesity
->  Too Much Alcohol
->  Tobacco Use

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and returns. It may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This can often accompany chest discomfort, but can also occur before any other signs are noticeable.
  • Other symptoms. This includes breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

Preventing Heart Disease

While the effects of heart disease are serious, the good news is there are many common-sense steps that you can take to limit your risk factors, according to the CDC. Some of them include;

1.     Live a healthy lifestyle – Healthy behaviors can lower your risk for heart disease, which include;

  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get enough physical activity
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Don’t smoke or use other forms of tobacco

2.     Check your cholesterol – Your health care provider should check your cholesterol at least once every five years. If you have already been diagnosed or have a family history of heart disease, your cholesterol should be checked more frequently. If you have high cholesterol, lifestyle changes or prescribed medication may help reduce your risk of heart disease.

3.     Control your blood pressure – High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, and is important to have yours checked on a regular basis.  If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your health care provider might recommend that you lower the sodium in your diet, prescribe medication to lower your blood pressure, and make some lifestyle changes.

4.     Manage diabetes – If your health care provider identifies symptoms of diabetes, they may recommend that you get tested. If diagnosed, it’s important for you to monitor and control your blood sugar levels. Lifestyle changes can help keep your blood sugar under control, and reduce your risk for heart disease or other diabetic complications.

5.     Take your medicine – If you take medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions. NEVER stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

6.     Talk with your healthcare provider – Work with your medical team to prevent or treat medical conditions that can potentially lead to heart disease.

How We Can Help

If you or a loved one is diagnosed with heart disease, Oxford Healthcare has numerous Home Care programs that can help. Contact us to find out about our cardiovascular, telemonitoring, and specialty services designed to help more people with heart disease stay healthy, and stay home.


About the Author
Pam Gennings has a Bachelor of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes, as well as providing guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

Fall Prevention: Simple Tips To Prevent Falls

Trip hazards can cause falls around the home.

By Jan Untz, RN, BSN, Oxford Orthopedic Coordinator

Falls can put you at risk of serious injury. Fall prevention may not seem like a lively topic, but it is quite important. Physical changes and health concerns—and sometimes the medications used to treat those conditions—can make falls more likely.

Fact: Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults.

Help prevent falls with these simple fall-prevention measures, from reviewing your medications to hazard-proofing your home.

Talk to Your Doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor to begin your fall prevention plan.

Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • What medications are you taking? Make a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring your medications to the appointment.
    Your doctor can review your medications for side effects and interactions that may increase your risk of falling. To help with fall prevention, the doctor may consider weaning you off certain medications—such as sedatives and some types of antidepressants.
  • Have you fallen before? Be prepared to discuss instances when you fell and give detailed information about when, where, and how you fell. You also need to be prepared to discuss instances when you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time. Details such as these may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.
  • Could your health conditions cause a fall? Certain eye and ear disorders may increase your risk of falls. Be prepared to discuss health conditions and how comfortable you are when you walk—do you feel any dizziness, joint pain, numbness or shortness of breath when you walk? Your doctor may evaluate muscle strength, balance and gait as well.

Keep Moving

Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. If approved by your doctor, you may want to consider activities to reduce the risk of falls and improve your strength, balance, coordination and flexibility such as walking, water workouts or tai chi.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid it will make a fall more likely, talk about it plainly. Your doctor may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or may refer you to a physical therapist, who can create a custom exercise program to improve balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

Wear Sensible Shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, floppy slippers and shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble and fall. People at risk for falls should wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.

Remove Home Hazards

Take a look around your home. The living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways and stairways may be filled with hazards.

To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands from high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape, tacks or a slip-resistant backing—or remove loose rugs entirely.
  • Repair loose floorboards and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in the bathtub and shower.

Light Up Your Living Space

Keep your home brightly lit to avoid tripping on objects that are hard to see.

You can also:

  • Place night lights in the bedroom, bathroom and hallways.
  • Place a lamp within reach of the bed for middle-of-the-night needs.
  • Make clear paths to light switches that aren’t near room entrances.
  • Consider trading traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on the lights before going up or down stairs.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-find places in case of power outages.

Use Assistive Devices

Your doctor might recommend using a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices can help, too.

For example:

  • Hand rails for both sides of stairways
  • Nonslip treads for bare-wood steps
  • A raised toilet seat, or one with armrests
  • Grab bars for the shower or tub
  • A sturdy plastic seat for the shower or tub plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

If you or someone you know could be at risk for falls and would like to learn more about Oxford’s Lifeline Personal Emergency Response System click here.

Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes

stepoutwalklogo

By Meagan Ennis, RN, Oxford’s Diabetes and Neurology Coordinator

Some things you might not know about Diabetes:

  • According to the American Diabetes Association, 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, and 21 million of those people are undiagnosed.
  • Another 86 million people have pre-diabetes, with only 11% of that population having been told they have this disease.
  • Every year another 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed.
  • Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States, and it can lead to many complications, including blindness, kidney disease, amputation of limbs, stroke and heart attack.
  • Diabetes costs Americans $245 billion annually. Direct medical costs account for $176 billion, and another $69 billion is lost through decreased productivity.

On Saturday October 1, 2016, the American Diabetes Association chapter located in Springfield, Missouri will be hosting Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. This is the 25th year for this walk for the ADA. Its mission is to provide vital information, resources, and opportunities for those diagnosed with Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, or pre-diabetes.

Whether you are battling this disease, have a loved one who is fighting or know anyone dealing with Diabetes, we at Oxford HealthCare encourage you to come join the fun.

Help make this the year we STOP Diabetes!!!

For more information please visit www.diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).

Hyperthermia: Stay Healthy in the Heat

Closeup portrait, old gentleman in white shirt having difficulties with extreme heat, high temperature, wiping sweat from face. By Cindy Tucker, RN, Oxford’s Quality and Compliance Coordinator

Anne’s bus was late. Even though it was noon on a very hot summer day, she decided to walk from the grocery store to her home. At 72—healthy and active—Anne thought the heat would be no match for her. Yet after walking just one block, she began to feel dizzy and weak.

Too much heat is not safe for anyone, but it’s even riskier if you are older or have health problems. It is important to get relief from the heat quickly. If not, you might begin to feel confused or faint. Your heart can become so stressed that it even stops beating. This is called Hyperthermia.

Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthermia

Knowing the signs to watch for can save your life, or the life of someone you love. Particularly if you are a caregiver, whether it be of a young child or an aging parent.

Heat Syncope

Sudden dizziness that can happen when you are active in hot weather. If you take a heart medication called a beta-blocker, or are not used to hot weather, then you are even more likely to feel faint. Rest in a cool place; put your legs up and drink water to make the dizzy feeling go away.

Heat Cramps

The painful tightening of muscles in your stomach, arms, or legs. Cramps can result from hard work or exercise. Though your body temperature and pulse usually stay normal during heat cramps, your skin may feel moist and cool. Find a way to cool your body down. Rest in the shade or in a cool building. Drink plenty of fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.

Heat Edema

A swelling in your ankles and feet when you get hot. Put your legs up to help reduce swelling.

Heat Exhaustion

A warning that your body can no longer keep itself cool. You might feel thirsty, dizzy, weak, uncoordinated, and nauseated. You may sweat a lot. Your body temperature may stay normal, but your skin may feel cold and clammy. Some people with heat exhaustion have a rapid pulse. Rest in a cool place and get plenty of fluids. If you don’t feel better soon, get medical care. Be careful—heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Heat Stroke

The most serious form of hyperthermia. Older people living in homes or apartments without air conditioning or fans are at most risk. People who become dehydrated or those with chronic diseases or alcoholism are also at increased risk.

Signs of heat stroke are:

  • Fainting
  • Change in behavior – confusion, agitation, staggering, grouchiness, or acting strangely
  • Body temperature over 104 degrees
  • Dry, flushed skin and a strong, rapid pulse or a slow, weak pulse
  • Not sweating even if it is hot

Heat Stroke is a medical emergency. If you have heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately.

Protect Children from Heat Illness

Children are vulnerable to the same things that put an adult or elderly patient at risk for dehydration: prolonged exposure to high temperatures, direct sun and high humidity without sufficient rest and fluids. The difference is that a child’s body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of his or her overall weight than an adult’s, which means children face a much greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illness.

Whether you’re caring for yourself, a child, or an older adult, be sure to drink plenty of water, take regular breaks from the heat, and stay on the lookout for signs of hyperthermia.

Excerpts from: National Institute on Aging and WebMD

Don’t Get Scammed by Home Repair Schemes

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Just like migrating birds arrive as the weather warms, so do the scammers. Home repair con artists are out in force this time of year—“flocking” to your neighborhood. These scammers are looking to make a quick buck; and unfortunately, older adults are most vulnerable.

 

According to the National Consumer League, the most common types of home repair scams are:

  • Duct cleaning
  • Driveway sealant
  • Leaky foundations
  • Landscaping
  • Furnace and roof repair

Don’t be a victim—know the signs!

  1. A contractor shows up uninvited, or will call or email out of the blue.
  2. The contractor tells you he/she is in the neighborhood and has “extra material” left over.
  3. The person pressures you to make a decision today because the “special offer” is for today only.
  4. The contractor points out a “problem” or offers a “free” inspection. Some scammers have been known to break something on purpose so they can be paid to “fix” the problem.
  5. The person demands full payment up front and usually wants cash.
  6. The individual has no identification or permits from the county or city.
  7. You are offered a discount so your home may be used as a “model”.
  8. The contractor wants to show you the “damage”, while an associate steals valuables from your home.

 

Tips to avoid being scammed by home repair con artists:

  1. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. You have the right to say NO!
  2. Get several estimates on any home repair job.
  3. Check references including checking with the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Never pay in full up front, especially if paying by cash.
  5. It is very important that the contractor is insured and bonded—ask to see proof.
  6. Make sure everything is put in writing. Carefully read all the contracts and be sure you fully understand the scope of the work to be done, cost and time necessary to complete the job. Have in writing how payment will be handled. Make sure you understand the contract cancellation and refund terms.
  7. Ask for advice from a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are feeling pressured or have questions and concerns.

If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone you trust. You can turn to the police, go to your bank if money has been taken from your account or seek help from adult protective services. In Missouri the adult protective service toll free number is 1-800-392-0210. To find the adult protective service contact information in other states, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored resource line, at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov.

 

Excerpts from National Council on Aging and National Consumer League

 

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.

 

MAY IS NATIONAL STROKE AWARENESS MONTH

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke. A stroke occurs when a blockage stops the flow of blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in or around the brain bursts. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) it is the fourth leading cause of death. A stroke can strike people of all ages, in fact the CDC reports that nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than 65.
Strokes are largely PREVENTABLE.
• According to the American Stroke Association, one in three Americans has high blood pressure, which is the number one controllable risk factor for stroke. It is important to keep your blood pressure under control.
• Cigarette smoking contributes to one in every five strokes in the country. Exposure to second hand smoke can also contribute to a higher stroke risk.
• Exercise regularly. To help lower or control blood pressure, get 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times a week.
• Prevent or control diabetes.
• Get your cholesterol checked regularly and manage it with diet/physical activity or medication if needed.
• Eat a healthy diet. Watch your sodium intake.
• Limit your alcohol intake.
• Ask your doctor if taking aspirin is right for you.
Strokes are TREATABLE, but every second counts. The sooner a patient receives medical treatment, the lower the risk of death or disability.

As an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke, the American Stroke Association wants everyone to learn F.A.S.T. When you spot the signs you will know to call 9-1-1 immediately.

F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downwards?
S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T= Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you will know when the first symptoms appeared.

Beyond F.A.S.T., other warning signs include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg.
• Sudden confusion
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden severe headaches with no known cause

Remember getting immediate medical attention for stroke is crucial to prevent disability and death.
For more information go to www.strokeassociation.org

*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.