Part 1: Meeting the Need
Americans are living longer than ever before – and with age comes the increased need to understand health and disease. Yet just 3 percent of seniors have the foundational knowledge to monitor their personal health, follow care plans, and pursue healthy behaviors.
“A great starting point for senior health education is the heart,” says Callie Whitwell, chief operating officer and founding partner at Lifetime Wellness. The company provides person-centered wellness, life enrichment, and recreational programming to independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitation, and memory care facilities throughout Texas and Oklahoma.
“Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the US, and seniors are at especially high risk,” Whitwell says. “February is American Heart Health Month– a prime opportunity for senior communities to focus on facts about heart disease and help residents stay heart healthy throughout the year.”
Focusing on Education
Heart disease is the term given to various health conditions that affect the heart. In the US, the most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attacks.
“At Lifetime Wellness, we’re devoted to partnering with senior communities to support residents living with heart conditions and to promote wellness as a way of life,” Whitwell says. “That starts with education – helping seniors understand how their heart functions, make better lifestyle choices, and be part of the overall conversation about heart health.”
Lifetime Wellness publishes a Cardiac Education Newsletter for distribution in partner communities. It focuses on easy-to-understand heart disease facts, for example:
- The top risk factor for heart disease is age because aging increases the risk of a weakened or thickened heart muscle.
- Other risk factors include smoking; a diet high in fat, salt, and sugar; diabetes; physical inactivity; and high blood pressure.
- Men are typically at greater risk of heart disease, but the risk for women increases after menopause.
- Heart attack survivors who are regularly physically active and make other heart-healthy changes live longer than those who don’t.
- Maintaining good heart health contributes not only to overall health but can help fight memory loss.
“Many believe that heart disease is a fact of life in our senior years,” Whitwell says. “Yet we have plenty of ways to keep our hearts in great shape, at every age. Understanding how to best approach daily health is essential and being in the know about a heart condition can alleviate anxiety.
“We work with senior living communities to help residents understand how they can put less stress on the heart. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and following a healthy, low-sodium and low-fat diet are essential steps. It’s also important to monitor and treat other health conditions, from diabetes to high cholesterol and high blood pressure.”
StoneGate Senior Living is a case in point of how heart health education is benefitting senior residents. The company has partnered with Lifetime Wellness for 13 years to provide wellness programs for almost all StoneGate facilities.
“Up to 80 percent of our residents have some sort of disease of the circulatory system, from high blood pressure to hardening of the arteries,” says Kim Montes, StoneGate’s corporate vice president of clinical operations. “A key benefit Lifetime Wellness brings to our communities is helping our residents better understand their heart condition and how they can best live with it, from improving diet to increasing physical activity.
“Physical health is just one part of the equation. Lifetime Wellness focuses on seeing each resident in all dimensions – not only body, but mind and spirit. Thanks to our partnership, we’re helping our residents to live vibrant lives — while building our reputation for delivering quality, person-centered care.”
In part 2 of this blog series, we focus on how forward-thinking senior care communities are engaging seniors to “celebrate every beat” during American Heart Health Month – and every day of the year.