Ah, the heart. It is truly what makes us who we are – and what carries us through our lives (literally and figuratively). Expectant parents jump for joy upon hearing that first tiny heartbeat in the womb. Many happy romances begin with the rapid beating of the heart. Major life decisions are often judged by listening to the heart (and, of course, the head!). Therefore, it makes sense that we must, in turn, love and care for our hearts.
February, being the month of love with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, is also the month dedicated to heart health. If you visit The Saybrook at Haddam during this month, you may see us “Go Red” with healthy heart tips and information around our community, particularly in the front parlor and dining room. This information – which is designed to promote strong hearts and to help avoid heart disease – comes from our wellness team under the direction of Diane Carigliano, RN, with the help of trusted sources such as The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others.
The most important thing we would like residents to understand is that there are various risk factors that contribute to heart disease – which can often be reduced, managed or avoided. While several are out of our control (such as age, gender and family history), there are factors that can be managed through lifestyle choices. These include not smoking, getting lots of exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. For some people, this also includes controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes – which is why we offer regular screenings for each of these. (Click here for more details about understanding risk factors.)
To help residents find time for very important daily exercise and movement, The Saybrook at Haddam offers a wide variety of programs such as:
- Exercise classes including stretching, Tai Chi and yoga
- Safe weight-lifting programs
- Open fitness center for use anytime during the day
- Safe walking paths outside the community
- “Step it Up” walking club that tracks steps by using pedometers
Residents participate in these activities for fun, fitness, and socialization – which are all key to an overall healthy lifestyle. Exercise increases the heart rate, gets the blood “pumping,” and gives residents energy and other benefits throughout the rest of their day.
Our chef also prepares heart-healthy meals each day featuring fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables, wholesome grains, low-fat dairy, and lean cuts of meat. We use minimal butter, salt and fats, and season foods with wonderful spices. These nutritious meals offer plenty of variety and lots of health benefits (including weight management).
Sadly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that heart disease is the number one cause of death for people age 65 and older. Additionally, the National Institute for Health reports 100,000 people in the state of Connecticut currently have coronary heart disease (which can lead to a heart attack). These numbers are not good – but we are doing everything we can to help residents avoid being a statistic and enjoy a long and wonderful life.
So, remember to take extra special care of your heart this month – and build habits to enjoy a strong heart every other month of the year!