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.

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.

WHEN WINTER WEATHER STRIKES – ARE YOU PREPARED?

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*

When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, exposure to the cold—whether indoors or outside—can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Infants and the elderly are most at risk, but anyone can be affected.

Be safe and be prepared for hazards associated with extremely cold weather.

Winter Weather Prep Tips:

Have a winter survival kit in your home that consists of:

  • Food that needs no cooking or refrigeration such as bread, crackers, cereal, canned foods and dried fruits. If you have young children, don’t forget baby food and formula.
  • Water stored in clean containers or bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 5 gallons per person on hand in case pipes freeze or rupture.
  • Medicines that any family member may need.

Remember, if your home is isolated, stock up on additional food, water and medicine.

Have an emergency supply list. Some handy and essential items to include:

  • an alternate way to heat your home during a power failure
  • blankets
  • matches
  • fire extinguisher
  • flashlight or battery-powered lantern and extra batteries
  • battery-powered radio and clock/watch
  • non-electric can opener
  • snow shovel
  • rock salt
  • special need items (diapers, hearing aid batteries, medications etc.)

Your ability to feel a change of temperature decreases with age, and older people are susceptible to health problems caused by cold. If you are 65 years of age or older, check the temperature of your home often during winter months. If a warm, indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.
Infants less than one year old should never sleep in a cold room. Provide warm clothing for infants and try to maintain a warm indoor temperature. If a warm indoor temperature cannot be maintained, make temporary arrangements to stay elsewhere.

If you are using a fireplace, wood stove or kerosene heater, always install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Heat your home safely!

Conserve heat. Keep as much heat as possible in your home. Close off unneeded rooms, stuff towels/rags in cracks under doors, close drapes, cover windows with any extra blankets at night.
Dress warmly and stay dry. Do not ignore shivering—it is an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a sign to return indoors.
Avoid exertion. Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have to work outside, dress warmly and work slowly.
Eat and drink wisely. Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly. Weather forecasters often give several days’ notice when impending cold weather is approaching. Check your emergency supplies when periods of extreme cold are predicted.

GET PREPARED! DON’T BE LEFT OUT IN THE COLD!

Excerpts from the CDC Extreme Cold Prevention Guide

*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.

Don’t Slip and Fall: Steps to Staying Safe.

By: Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

LifelineThere is snow and ice on the ground and the groundhog saw his shadow. So although we may be dreaming of spring, winter weather is here for now.

Slick streets and sidewalks are reminders to be careful—not just in the winter but at all times—of falling.

Anyone can slip and fall, but those 65 and older are at the greatest risk of moderate to severe injuries from falls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports:

  • Falls cause over 95%  of hip fractures
  • People 75 and older who fall are four to five times more likely to be admitted to a long-term care facility for a year or longer compared to those ages 65-74

Protect yourself, or someone you love, with simple steps:

  • Spread salt or sand on icy surfaces—ask for help
  • Stay inside during icy, snowy weather unless absolutely necessary
  • Wear snow boots or shoes with good traction
  • Always have someone with you
  • Clear off porch, steps and driveway—ask a friend or neighbor to help
  • Install outdoor lighting

Indoors:

  • Use nightlights in hallways and bathrooms
  • Keep a flashlight by your bed
  • Watch out for clutter, small pieces of furniture, throw rugs, electrical cords, etc.—remove or rearrange items that can cause you to trip
  • Watch out for pets—they are wonderful companions, but also get under foot
  • Arrange furniture with plenty of space to walk around
  • Install handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Put items frequently used within reach
  • Try not to use a step stool—ask for help or use a stool with a handle bar
  • Be cautious of wet floors—especially when friends and family come visit and bring the wintery mix indoors
  • Install grab bars in your bathroom and rubber bath mat in shower or tub

Fear of falling is also dangerous. Unfortunately, many older adults do not report a fall to a family member or doctor if no injury occurred. This often turns into a fear of falling which leads to limited activity. Reducing mobility and loss of physical strength and fitness only increases the risk of falling.

If you are at risk of falling, or concerned about a loved one’s safety, Oxford HealthCare can help. Oxford’s Lifeline Personal Emergency Response System detects a fall and calls for help.

Just click here to learn more about Lifeline and peace-of-mind at the push of a button.

 

 

Colorectal Cancer: Are You At Risk?

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America. The National Cancer Institute estimates nearly 97,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer and 40,000 with rectal cancer this year alone. The Institute also estimates that over 50,000 people will die from colon and rectal cancer this year as well.

To help you calculate your risk for Colorectal Cancer, the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health has developed a Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment Tool for people over the age of 50.  All you have to do is answer 15 questions about your health history. It only takes between five and eight minutes to complete. It is important to discuss your results with your primary health care provider so you and your doctor can determine what screening tests you should take to detect signs of cancer before symptoms appear.

Everyone should be screened for Colorectal Cancer by the age of 50 unless you have risk factors that indicate screenings at a younger age. Screenings can detect Colorectal Cancer early when treatments are most effective. Waiting for symptoms to occur is NOT a screening option. Maybe you are squeamish about the screening tests or perhaps a little “grossed” out and that has kept you from getting screened. Click here to hear from real people who had various screening tests done and to learn more about Colorectal Cancer from the National Cancer Institute.