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Just the Facts: Heart Health Saves Lives

February is American Heart Month! Being heart healthy is particularly important for older adults, caregivers and those who are connected to the Aging Network. Over 650,000 individuals age 65 and older die each year from heart disease. Caregivers and younger individuals are also at risk; over 150,000 individuals under age 65 lose their lives each year to heart disease. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke, and is the most prevalent chronic condition reported by older adults. Women age 65 and over are more likely to be affected by high blood pressure (58% report high blood pressure), as are African American individuals over the age of 65 (71% report high blood pressure)i. Other risk factors also influence high blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke, including:

  • Age. The prevalence of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases with age and affects more than half of people aged 55–74 years and approximately three-fourths of those aged 75 years and older.
  • Excess Body Weight. Being overweight can increase blood pressure; losing weight can help reduce blood pressure.
  • Physical Inactivity. Not getting enough exercise can increase weight gain and can lead to high blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends adults engage in moderate physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Such activity may help reduce blood pressure.
  • Diet. Sodium is the element in salt that can raise blood pressure. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant foods. Eating too much sodium can increase blood pressure. Not eating enough potassium (from fruits and vegetables) can also increase blood pressure.

Things You Can Do to Control High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Lifestyle changes may prevent or delay getting high blood pressure and may help lower elevated blood pressure. These include eating more potassium-rich foods, losing excess weight, being more physically active, and eating a healthy diet. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation. There are many resources publically available for consumers and caregivers to learn more about risk factors and prevention for high blood pressure.

Get Connected!

Million Hearts is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over the next five years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are the co-leaders of Million Hearts within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The initiative provides information, resources and updates for organizations and individuals who are working to be one in a million hearts.

Preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes in the next five years will require the work and commitment to change from everyone. There are steps that each of us can take to reach this goal as a nation. Get involved and get connected to more information on the Million Hearts website.

Additional Resources:

CDC’s Assessing Your Weight Website

CDC’s How to Prevent High Blood Pressure

CDC Office of Health Disparities

Healthy People 2020

NHLBI Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure with DASH

Make the Call—Don’t Miss a Beat: Heart Attack Information for Women

National Prevention Strategy

Older Adult Health Facts: Sodium and Potassium

Older American’s 2010: Key Indicators of Well-Being Report

iOlder Americans 2010 Key Indicators of Well-Being Chronic Health Conditions