Raising Heart Disease Awareness (DRops of Wisdom)

Today we continue “DRops of Wisdom,” our physician blog, with Dr. Chad Farmer, medical director for LifePath Hospice. He describes the importance of raising heart disease awareness in women and men in anticipation of Heart Month.

Heart Disease and Valentines in February

The inaugural American Heart Month took place in 1964 thanks to a proclamation by President Lyndon B. Johnson. By joint resolution, Congress ensured that in future years, every President of the United States would officially announce February as Heart Month.

What happens exactly during Heart Month? It is time devoted annually to raise awareness of heart disease, the number one killer of women and men in the United States. Every year, the American Heart Association, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, reports on current heart disease statistics across the country. Their findings are quite staggering.

  • In the United States alone, more than 92 million adults are living with some form of heart disease or after-effects of a stroke.
  • One in every three deaths in the United States is from heart disease. This means more lives are lost due to heart disease than all forms of cancer and chronic respiratory disease combined.
  • Every day, about 2,200 people die from heart disease. This is an average of one death every 40 seconds.

The population that is affected dramatically: women. While both women and men can experience typical heart attack symptoms, such as chest pains and breaking out in a cold sweat, many women also describe symptoms that aren’t thought of when talking about a heart attack. They can have nausea, shortness of breath and/or pain or discomfort in their stomach, shoulders, jaw, neck or back. Unfortunately, women shrug off the warning signs and attribute these symptoms to something else entirely.

The following are statistics for women and heart disease.

  • After experiencing their first heart attack, women age 45 and younger are more likely than men to die within a year.
  • If a woman thought she was experiencing any heart attack signs, only 65 percent would dial 9-1-1.

During the last 15 years, education for women about heart disease risk has increased due to the Go Red Movement and National Wear Red Day, which takes place this year on Friday, February 2. However, even more needs to be done, particularly when it comes to prevention.heart disease

The American Heart Association has an initiative in place called “Life’s Simple 7®,” which looks at seven measures designed to improve the heart health of people living in the United States. The goal is to get more Americans heart healthy by reducing death from heart disease and stroke by 20 percent in two years. The 2020 Impact Goal tracks the following: control of cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, not-smoking, physical activity, healthy diet and body weight.

At Risk for Congestive Heart Failure

At Chapters Health System and its affiliates—Good Shepherd HospiceHPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, we have seen a steady increase in patients with chronic congestive heart failure (CHF). It is a type of heart disease that cannot be cured. The pumping action of the heart is inadequate, causing blood to back up into the lungs. This makes it difficult to breathe (left-sided heart failure). Blood also backs up into the veins, causing swollen legs and feet (right-sided heart failure).

According to Emory Healthcare, nearly 5 million Americans are currently living with this form of heart disease, and approximately half a million new diagnoses are made every year. CHF is the primary diagnosis in 875,000 hospitalizations and most common in patients who are 65 years or older.

For CHF, the Cleveland Clinic reports this type of heart disease occurs in men and women equally, and the prevalence is higher in African-Americans, Hispanics and American Indians than in Caucasians. And the America Heart Association claims that 53,000 Americans die from CHF every year.

How Chapters Health System Can Help

At Chapters Health System, we recognize the unique needs of patients with heart disease such as CHF. Our At Home with CHF program was specifically developed to meet those needs and help patients decrease unwanted hospitalizations.

Our At Home with CHF program includes the following for patients diagnosed with CHF:

  • Initial and ongoing education is provided to patients and families to assist in controlling the symptoms of CHF. Patients can therefore remain more comfortable wherever they call home.
  • Patients receive a form and scale to record their weight. In addition, check-in calls are made to find out if patients have gained weight or had any change in symptoms.
  • Patients also receive a color-coded tool that helps them “grade” their symptoms so they know when to call Good Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospiceand LifePath Hospice for help.
  • Patients have 24/7/365 access to the HospiceHelp24® nursing hotline for immediate assistance with any change in their CHF symptoms, such as difficulty performing daily activities; increased shortness of breath; tightness in the chest; swelling of the feet, ankles or abdomen; and a rapid weight gain in one day of 3 pounds.

In addition, our hospice nurses are equipped to anticipate the needs and symptoms of CHF patients.

What Would You Like to Read About in Future Posts?

In “DRops of Wisdom,” we want to feature posts with subject matter that interests you. Please leave a comment or email us with your ideas.

At Chapters Health System and its affiliatesGood Shepherd Hospice, HPH Hospice and LifePath Hospice, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to info@chaptershealth.org

About Dr. Chad Farmer

Dr. Chad Farmer, Medical Director for LifePath Hospice, is a local resource for area hospitals seeking to educate staff on issues surrounding chronic conditions, palliative care and hospice programs.

5 Tips to Decrease CHF Symptoms

If you or someone close to you suffers with CHF, the following is a list of things you can do to relieve the distress of symptoms.

Position yourself so you lungs will expand. Symptoms will decrease if you sit up in a chair or bed and lean slightly forward. Another tip is to rest your arms on pillows, the arms of a chair or an over-bed table. Additionally, it is important to keep your head elevated by raising the head of the bed or using several pillows.

Avoid things that increase shortness of breath. There are certain things that can trigger shortness of breath so it is important to avoid or keep them to a minimum. They are smoking, pollen, humidity and extremes in temperature (hot or cold).

Utilize prescribed medication and oxygen. If medication is prescribed and oxygen ordered, use as directed.

Reduce anxiety. If an activity can distract you from thinking about the feeling of shortness of breath, your anxiety can decrease. Some suggestions are watching television, and listening to music.

Increase air flow. It is important to get air circulating around you. Try turning on a fan and positioning so it is blowing on your face. Others tips are reducing the temperature in the room and applying a cool cloth to your face, neck or chest.

Try pursed-lip breathing. This tip helps by making breathing more effective for people with CHF. By keeping your lips together as if you are whistling, you then need to breathe through your nose and out slowly through your mouth.

Prevent infection. For individuals with CHF, it is important to prevent infections. This can be accomplished by washing hands frequently, avoiding people with upper respiratory infections and drinking plenty of fluids.

Pace yourself. In order to keep symptoms at bay, it is sound practice to avoid activities that increase shortness of breath, such as climbing stairs. Don’t overly exert yourself and rest between activities. Try positioning chairs throughout your home so that if you should need to rest you can. And if you need help, simply ask family and friends for assistance.


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