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Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

February Recognized as American Heart Month

Questions you should ask if your loved one suffers a heart attack

February is American Heart Month, an opportunity to raise awareness of heart disease, the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States. More than 81 million people suffer from life-threatening conditions, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and high blood pressure. Each day, nearly 2,300 people die of heart disease — one every 38 seconds. Because of advances in heart surgery and patient care, however, seniors who suffer from heart attacks and chronic heart disease can learn to live with their conditions and continue leading healthy lives.

“Suffering from a heart attack and adjusting to life with heart disease can be a challenging and difficult experience for seniors and their loved ones,” said Larry Kreider, owner of Right at Home in Santa Barbara. “A supportive caregiver can help seniors understand the lifestyle changes necessary for a successful recovery and make the adjustment easier.”

If your loved one has recently been hospitalized as a result of a heart attack, you should discuss the following with his or her doctor:

» What complications should we be aware of? If your loved one suffered a severe heart attack, he or she could be at risk for complications such as arrhythmia, congestive heart failure or stroke. Discuss with the doctor how to recognize the signs of developing complications as well the symptoms of a second heart attack.

» What medications will my loved one need? Medications often prescribed for patients suffering from a heart attack include statins, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers and aspirin. Discuss with the doctor how to help your loved one manage his or her medications and understand the side effects of each prescribed drug.

» How long will my loved one need care? Find out what types of rehabilitation and therapy services your loved one will need, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy or cardiac rehabilitation. Depending on the severity of the heart attack, your loved one may require more help than you can provide. In-home care organizations such as Right at Home can provide respite for family caregivers, offering services including medication reminders, transportation to follow-up appointments, light housekeeping and meal preparation.

» What dietary changes will my loved one need to make? A healthy diet is one of the best ways to lower the risk of additional heart attacks. Your loved one’s doctor or nutritionist can help develop guidelines for a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and salt with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish and low-fat dairy products.

» When can my loved one resume his or her normal activities? In many cases, a heart attack patient can resume normal activities within a few months. Your loved one’s doctor can help set a realistic timeline for recovery based on the severity of the heart attack.

Family caregivers play an important role in the recovery of heart attack patients. Seniors can remain positive and healthy for many years following a heart attack when they receive physical and emotional support from their loved ones.

The Santa Barbara office of Right at Home is a locally owned and operated franchise office of Right at Home Inc., serving the communities of Santa Barbara, Montecito, Carpinteria, Goleta, Santa Ynez Valley, Buellton and Lompoc. Click here for more information, or call 805.962.0555.

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