World Heart Day is September 29th. It’s one of those focus dates that help us pay attention to some aspect of our health, in this case, our heart. I personally can’t think of a more important organ. Just to get your attention – cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s number one killer, causing over 18.6 million deaths per year. We continue to be awe struck by the 6.9 million people that have died worldwide since COVID started in March of 2020, yet CVD killed 18.6 million people worldwide last year! Now I know you’re thinking that having heart problems is just what happens when we get old, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent it. I can say emphatically – that’s not true!
I’ve mentioned in an earlier blog that I found out that my blood pressure (bp) was high and went to the doctor. I initially discovered my high blood pressure problem when I went to an audiologist, and they took my bp as a standard part of their pre-exam routine. In looking back, I figured out that I hadn’t had my bp checked for almost a year, which means I could have had undiscovered high blood pressure for almost a year. That’s too long to go without having my blood pressure checked. I’m happy to report that the prescribed medicine has lowered my blood pressure by 20 points, down to the mid-130s/78. We are hoping that through a little better eating habits and some exercise, I can reduce it to the 120s without increasing the medicine. The big takeaway here is that high blood pressure can be treated!
I have found out that the great singer Tina Turner had untreated high blood pressure for many years. A few months prior to her death she said,
“My kidneys are victims of my not realizing that my high blood pressure should have been treated with conventional medicine. I have put myself in great danger by refusing to face the reality that I need daily, lifelong therapy with medication. For far too long I believed that my body was an untouchable and indestructible bastion.”
I’ve sometimes ignored symptoms that should have led me to consult a doctor and that sort of thinking is not healthy aging. We could have continued to enjoy the uncontainable spirit of Tina Turner if she would have sought medical help earlier for her high blood pressure.
The World Heart Day is a great time to take some action to improve our heart health. As always, there are guidelines that will help us maintain healthy hearts. You can find more information on CVD and how you can maintain a healthy heart by visiting the World Heart Federation website, which includes more information on each of these main guidelines.
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Avoid tobacco use
- Avoid alcohol
- Manage stress
- Know your numbers
- Take your medication as prescribed
- Know the warning signs
I always like to pick one of the guidelines and expound a bit on its importance. I think that knowing your numbers is especially important because it encourages, if not forces us, to go to the doctor. It’s through check-ups and blood work that you find out what your numbers are. I just attended a reunion with some of my Air Force friends, and it was amazing how everyone seemed to know their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. Like blood pressure, blood cholesterol can normally be controlled through a healthy diet and, if necessary, by appropriate medications. I can testify that my medication is helping me to lower by cholesterol number. Diabetes runs in my family, so I’m paying close attention to my blood sugar numbers.
One other thing, taking your medication is key. I’m not a fan of pills (must be something in my upbringing). But I’m convinced that these medicines we take are important. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about the medicines you take, what they do, any side affects they might have and how long you will need to take them. Finding out how the medicines work and then seeing your numbers get better (blood pressure in my case) helps to validate in your mind that they work and appreciate the importance of adhering to the prescription’s instructions.
It’s amazing to me that 80% of cardiovascular disease could be prevented and treated. It shortens the lives of so many people. We have the means and the medicines to treat many facets of this disease, it’s up to each one of us to take action – if not for ourselves, then for our loved ones.
Facebook live event – We will have another Facebook live event on September 28th at 3:00 PM ET where myself and Matt Monday from Morning Consult, will discuss this year’s Senior Satisfaction Survey highlights and how seniors feel about their Medicare Part D plans and their concerns regarding the Inflation Reduction Act’s price-setting provisions. Click here for more information and mark yourself as “going” on the event page.