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Educating Seniors: Bring Your Health… Home Celebrate National Heart Month

By Kimberly Harmon RN, BSN

stethoscope-with-band-aid-heart-reducedThis February, we celebrated Valentine’s Day ~ and, not coincidentally, National Heart Month. Since 1963, to urge Americans to join the battle against heart disease, February has been celebrated as National Heart Month.  Since 2004, February also has been the signature month for the American Heart Association’s popular “Go Red For Women” campaign, spreading the message that heart disease isn’t just a man’s problem.

In this article, you’ll discover some information about our local connection to Valentine’s Day. You’ll also learn how your heart healthiness can, to a great extent, depend on your emotional health, your physical health, and even your spiritual health.

But first, a little about Valentine’s Day and its connection to our hometown: in the U.S., the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced and sold shortly after 1847 by Esther Howland (1828–1904) of Worcester. These days, in our country alone, the U.S. Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year.

Valentine’s Day and its underlying theme of love prompted me to think about the health of our hearts and heart disease ~ the leading cause of death in the U.S. In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack. About every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event ~ and about one every minute will die from one.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. Often perceived as an “older woman’s disease,” heart disease is the leading cause of death among women age 65 years and older.
The good news is that you can greatly reduce your heart disease risk through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication (be sure to consult your physician before taking any medications!). Lifestyle changes can include nurturing your emotional well-being, investing in your physical and social well-being, and developing your spiritual well-being.

Nurturing your emotional well-being will prepare you to deal with the inevitable challenges of aging, regardless of what they are (such as coping with the death of a loved one). When you invest in your physical well-being, you’ll have the physical strength to handle many of the changes your body might be going through.
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Stay connected to your community through programs like Silver Sneakers or participating in adult day health programs such as those offered by the Auburn VNA Health Network. The Internet can also help you stay connected: many seniors I know use social media to connect with loved ones and friends via Skype or Facebook.

As for your spiritual well-being, this is intensely personal. Many people find the peace and quiet for which they yearn in traditional places of worship: a local church, synagogue, or spiritual community center may be the ideal place for you to nurture your spiritual self.

As always, the Auburn VNA Health Network Team is available for your health and wellness needs with a complete range of home care services. For more information or questions, please call us at 508-791-0081. Be happy, be well and be safe!

Kimberly Harmon is President and CEO of the Auburn VNA Health Network. The AVHN Health Network provides more than 19,000 home visits annually to more than 700 individuals in Auburn, Worcester and surrounding towns. Kim welcomes your questions, comments or concerns about any specific health issues. You may reach her at kharmon@auburnvna.org or AVHN.org.

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