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Listening to Your Heart – Atrial Fibrillation

Everyone knows about heart attacks… but have you ever heard of atrial fibrillation? Despite being the most common heart arrhythmia (meaning irregular heartbeat) that is medically treated and being the cause for 1 in 7 strokes, most people aren’t familiar with atrial fibrillation. Surveys have revealed that even those who are aware of it often don’t consider it a serious medical condition. Education is key here, as leaving atrial fibrillation untreated doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and increases the risk of having a stroke significantly. It is estimated that by 2030, about 12.1 million people living in America will have a diagnosis of AFib. Considering how high that number is, it’s time to start paying attention to what it is and how you can mitigate yours and your loved ones’ risk factors!

a fib diagram

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

So what is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation, abbreviated AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm during which the top chambers of your heart, called your atria, quiver rather than beat, leading to inefficient movement of blood through your heart. Given the inefficient contraction of the heart, individuals with AFib are at a higher risk for clots. The higher risk of clotting and the decreased ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently is what leads to an increased risk of further heart conditions and stroke should a clot form and travel to the brain.

Common Symptoms

While some individuals with AFib might not know they have it and may experience no symptoms at all, others could experience a number of various symptoms. Pay attention to the symptoms and take action. Consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following:

Risk Factors

In addition to symptom monitoring, there are a number of risk factors to be aware of related to AFib. Considering the risk of stroke and heart disease increases significantly with AFib, mitigating the risk factors of AFib is crucial. Risk factors include:

If any of these risk factors apply to you or a loved one, consider if your risk factors are modifiable, meaning you have more control over reducing how much of a risk they pose. Focus on lowering your blood pressure, losing weight if appropriate, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake and quitting smoking. Consuming whole, natural foods when possible, incorporating exercise and purposeful movement every day, and staying hydrated can go a long way in preserving your health!

Treatment

If you have already been diagnosed with AFib, it is important to continue to mitigate as many risk factors as you can using the guidance above, in addition to seeking proper medical treatment for your condition. Lifestyle changes, even after being diagnosed with AFib, can greatly decrease the severity and frequency of your symptoms. These lifestyle changes include cutting back on alcohol, reducing caffeine, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a nutrient rich diet, losing weight if required and lowering your blood pressure. When prescribed medications for AFib, especially blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots, it is imperative that you follow the guidance of your doctor and stay consistent with the treatment.

Understanding Your Medications 

Given that AFib is a chronic condition, meaning it doesn’t go away, it is likely that you will be on medication to manage it for the rest of your life. This can be scary and anxiety inducing if you don’t understand your medications or don’t have a plan to stay on track. Meet with your doctor and be sure to understand what medications you are taking, why you are taking them, how long you will be taking them for and what side effects to look out for. You deserve to understand and feel comfortable with your treatment, so be sure to collaborate with your medical team and find support from your loved ones.

heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation – if it’s not taken seriously, it could cause serious problems!

Know the symptoms, schedule regular visits with your doctors, and practice a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk!

Sources:

Image 1 – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

Image 2 – https://www.mcrmedical.com/blog/aha-2020-guidelines/

Heart Foundation –

https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/your-heart/hearthelp/atrial-fibrillation/managing-your-af

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

American Heart Association –https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af

Cropped image of military service member holding PTSD block letters

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Awareness, Recognition, and Support

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Life is full of events that cause challenge, fear, or even sometimes pose a threat to us. Those serving in the military are even more susceptible than the general public to these events due to the high-stress, high-risk nature of their occupation. Often and commonly, individuals react to the situation at hand and are temporarily unsettled by these events before returning to normal daily living. In other cases, the event that is experienced can have long-lasting, life-altering negative effects and this is known as post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, as a disorder that develops in individuals who have experienced shocking, scary, or dangerous events who continue to feel stress or fear even after they are safe from the original event.

Signs and Symptoms

While it is common for individuals to be temporarily disrupted by a trauma, especially during combat, PTSD diagnosis is less common and requires an individual to experience symptoms for more than a month and in a great enough capacity to interfere with work and/or relationships. Symptoms are categorized into four subgroups: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms. Below are some examples of each.

Re-experiencing

Avoidance

Arousal and Reactivity

Cognition and Mood

Treatment Options

Whether you recognize these signs or symptoms in a loved one or perhaps in your own behaviors, you are not alone and there are many treatment options available. Treatment by a mental health provider can open up the door to options such as medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The medications that have been studied and utilized most extensively are antidepressant medications which help to mitigate anger, worry, sadness and numbness. Additional medications can be sought out and explored to help alleviate other symptoms such as trouble sleeping and nightmares. Psychotherapy, also referred to as “talk therapy”, can be done one-on-one or in a group setting. Along with specific and individualized therapy goals, treatment should aim to educate individuals about their triggers and symptoms and prepare them with strategies to manage them when they occur.

PTSD can be incredibly isolating and takes a toll on the lives of many individuals in our community. While it may be hard to imagine living without the symptoms, recovery is possible. In congruence with medication and therapy, there are steps you can take on your own to facilitate recovery. Exercise can be a useful tool to improve both physical and mental health, as it is proven to reduce stress and improve mood. A strong support system of family and friends, as well as the veteran community, can be key to recovery. Involving loved ones in your life and engaging in a community that can relate to your experience can help to alleviate the loneliness associated with PTSD. While working with your therapist to build skills to reduce symptoms, consider partaking in activities that previously sparked joy and interest.

Caring for someone with PTSD can take a serious toll on those providing support as well. If you are a family member, friend or loved one of someone with PTSD, it is imperative to

prioritize your health and seek care and support for yourself as well. Look into local support groups within your community or virtual platforms to connect with other individuals in similar positions and keep regular checkups with your doctor. Make sure to set aside time to sleep, exercise and eat while you are offering care. You are not alone in offering care; seek out professionals and encourage the individual you are caring for to get further treatment. The better you care for yourself, the better you will be able to offer support.

Looking to the Future

Research has been underway for years looking into both the mental and biological components of PTSD, and new research directions continue to develop as scientists acquire new information. A subgroup of research studies called clinical trials seek to study if new tests, prevention measures, or treatments are effective. While clinical trials are an excellent method to further scientific knowledge, individuals should be aware that new information is the goal and there is no guarantee of successful treatment. If you are interested in learning more about current clinical trials or being involved in one, you can visit clinicaltrials.gov for a current list of National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies being conducted across the country or visit the NIMH’s Clinical Trials webpage for information about partaking in a study.

Resources for Veterans and Caregivers

Seeking treatment can feel overwhelming and lonely initially, and it is important to know that there are many organizations that are in place to help you find the support you or your loved one may need.

If you are a veteran with PTSD, the Veterans Crisis Line is available to you and your loved ones. You do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to access the 24/7, 365-day-a-year support that this line offers. Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1

If you are a caregiver for a friend, family member, or loved one dealing with PTSD, the VA offers caregiver support in the form of a helpline as well as a caregiver program. To visit the website, go to caregiver.va.gov or call the helpline to speak to someone directly. Caregiver Support: 855-260-3274

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, abbreviated SAMHSA, has a free and confidential hotline for individuals and family members facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. This hotline is also referred to as the Treatment Referral Routing Service and provides referrals to treatment centers, support groups, and community-based programs. The hotline is free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year and is available in Spanish and English. SAMHSA hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm, ET. informational helpline as well as an email address, helpline@nami.org, to

provide support and resources to individuals in need. The NAMI is NOT a hotline, crisis line, or suicide prevention line. NAMI helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Thank you to our veterans and their community caregivers.

We see you and we support you.

Elderly couple with dementia putting together a puzzle

Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. This month, take time to discuss the importance of brain health with your friends, relatives, and elderly adults in your life—especially those who may be at risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Taking steps to improve brain health early on can often reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

What Is the Prevalence Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that destroys brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It is most common among adults over the age of 65.

Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s concentration, judgement, and decision-making ability, leading to problems with carrying out essential daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed, and cooking. Many people with Alzheimer’s often require hospice care so they can get help with performing these activities.

The Importance Of Early Screening

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that develops gradually over time. There is no designated screening test for Alzheimer’s, though your doctor can review your medical history and perform an evaluation to determine your risk.

Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

Maintaining optimal brain health is key to reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for Alzheimer’s patients, you can work with them to improve their brain health and reduce the severity of certain symptoms.

Eat Healthy, Nutritious Foods

Leafy greens, fatty fish, and almonds are some of the many foods that contribute to good brain health. Foods like these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, that are shown to boost brain health and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Eat a higher amount of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and nuts to improve your cognition.

Stay Social

Socializing with others on a regular basis can stimulate your memory and attention, strengthening neural networks to improve overall brain function. Being social can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, boosting the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s. Go dancing, join book clubs, and attend social events at community centers. Many hospice care providers can help you find social activities geared toward older adults and seniors.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity offers a wide range of benefits for cognition and brain health. It improves your circulation and blood flow, boosting your memory and problem-solving ability. It can even help ward off anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Schedule exercise into your daily schedule, even if it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk. Better yet, join exercise classes for seniors, such as water aerobics and yoga.

Challenge Your Brain

Learning new skills and challenging your brain can lead to the formation of new connections between brain cells, which reduces your risk for cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s. Play board games with your relatives and other seniors in the community, or take classes that teach you a new language or how to cook a certain cuisine. You can even download and play brain games on your smartphone, such as Wordle, Lumosity, and Candy Crush.

Hospice Care With Hospice At Your Side

Hospice At Your Side is a leading provider of home health and hospice services throughout the United States—including hospice services for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Visit our website to learn more about our hospice providers nearest you.

Senior woman walking on outdoor trail

5 Things To Do On National Senior Health and Fitness Day

Staying fit and healthy year-round is essential for a fulfilled lifestyle. But as people age, it becomes increasingly more difficult to remain active and feeling your best. ​​If you have been struggling with your health or fitness lately, then May 25th is the perfect day for you. This year, May 25th is National Senior Health and Fitness Day, and to kick off the celebration, here is a list of our favorite things you can do to improve your well-being on this inspiring day, and throughout the year.

Get Active Outside

As the weather starts to turn in May, now is the perfect time to dust off your walking shoes and get outside. For seniors, low-intensity activities are safer and easier to do on your own. They still promote increased heart health and strength while putting reduced pressure on your joints and muscles. Some activities can include walking to the park with your family, doing lawn work, or riding a bike. These are all great ways to get outside and get active, and the best thing is, seniors of all ages can enjoy them without pushing themselves to their limit. The bottom line is as long as you are getting outside and moving your body, you’re taking steps in the right direction to leading a healthier life.

Get Active Inside

We all know the weather can be very unpredictable at times, especially during the spring months. At times, it can go from rain to sunshine within the same hour. That’s okay because there are plenty of ways that you can still stay active indoors, no matter if you’re living independently or in a community living setting. For example, yoga and dancing are great options because they work all parts of the body, are low impact, and can be performed indoors. If you need something a bit more tangible to do, look into using resistance bands when doing some basic exercises. These bands are much safer than weights and will not take up nearly as much space.  While you might have to get a little more creative if you’re working with less space indoors, there are plenty of ways you can get your body moving inside even just by walking up and down the stairs. Your local gym or YMCA also may offer a dedicated space for activities such as swimming to get active while still staying indoors.

Schedule Your Health Screenings

Maintenance is key to living a long and healthy life. The best way to maintain your health is by staying on top of your regular health screenings. If you find yourself in the situation of not having been to the doctor in a while, now would be a great time to schedule an appointment. Keep in mind that your health goes beyond just your normal primary care. Scheduling a cleaning with your dentist, getting new prescription eyeglasses from your optometrist, and getting a head-to-toe skin check at your dermatologist are all commonly skipped areas of health maintenance. If you can’t remember the last time you addressed these areas of your health, use today to take that step in scheduling your health screening appointments so you can ensure you live the longest, healthiest life you can.

Eat A Healthy Meal

I’m sure you have heard the saying that “food is your fuel”. The food that you put into your body plays a major role in how you feel and operate on a daily basis. Don’t wait, start eating some healthy meals today! To begin, try and get your daily serving of greens, whole grains, and protein. While they are all important, eating an adequate amount of protein each day can help prevent the muscle breakdown that most seniors will face as they age. Another thing to keep in mind is the roles that certain foods have. For example, if you’re having a hard time with digestion, try eating more fiber as it helps food move through your digestion system. Lastly, staying away from processed foods and sugar as a whole can make a world of difference for your overall nutrition.

Meet With Your Friends/Family

Happiness is a foundational building block of your health, and don’t let anybody tell you anything different. Make time to visit with friends and family today; even if it’s only for a half-hour. Grab a coffee, eat lunch at your favorite local spot, or even invite company over. Not only does seeing your loved ones show that you care, but it also allows a space for happy memories to be created. In addition, being happy has been shown to fight stress, reduce blood pressure, and may even extend your lifespan. Take the opportunity to get out of the house, enjoy some great company, and reap the benefits that come along with it.

Hospice At Your Side Thanks You

Even though Hospice At Your Side acknowledges the importance of our seniors every day, National Senior Health and Fitness Day gives the larger population an opportunity to shed light on the importance of their health and wellbeing too. No matter what you do on this day, the memorable lesson is that you’re acting upon the matter and seizing the opportunity to better yourself.

We are looking forward to seeing how you participate this year. We hope you enjoy National Senior Health and Fitness Day 2022.

Military Appreciation Month

While our appreciation for those who have served our country in the military extends far beyond one month, May is recognized as Military Appreciation Month. So we would like to take a moment to recognize those who have served and those who continue to serve, as well as those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

We thank you – from the bottom of our hearts – for your service.

Fun Facts

In honor of Military Appreciation Month, we thought we would share the answers to some commonly-asked questions.

  • What is military time?

    • Military time is the popular name for the 24-hour clock which runs from midnight to midnight and is divided into 24 hours. For example, 7:00pm in military time is 19:00.

  • What is the military alphabet?
    • The military alphabet is the phonetic alphabet adopted by NATO that is used to ensure clear communication. Examples include Alpha-Bravo-Charlie for A-B-C.

  • What are military ranks?
    • Military ranks are used to define authority and responsibility in a military hierarchy. The ranks vary based on branch, as well as pay grade. You can learn more about military rank here.

Promotions

Many businesses offer a military discount on a regular basis. Below are just a handful of examples of current promotions for military members.

  • adidas: 30% off online orders
  • Apple: 10% off on Apple products for current military members, veterans, and immediate family members residing in the same household
  • AT&T: unlimited plans as low as $27 per month with four lines for military members, veterans, and their families
  • Converse: 15% off
  • L.L. Bean: 10% off for all active, veteran, retired, and reserve personnel
  • Levi’s: 15% off all its apparel for military service members
  • Nike: 10% off all orders
  • Omaha Steaks: 10% off on steaks and more
  • Samsung: save up to 30% on appliances and more with the military discount program
  • T-Mobile: 50% off Magenta rate family lines
  • The North Face: 10% off
  • Under Armour: 20% off online orders for military personnel, retirees, veterans, and their spouses and family members
  • Verizon Wireless: unlimited plans starting at $30 per line each month with the purchase of four lines

Showing Your Appreciation

There are many ways to show your appreciation for those who have served, including:

Thank you!

To all of those who have served in some way – as active military members, reserve, veterans, and spouses and families – we thank you for your service and sacrifices for our country.

Happy Cinco de Mayo! / Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

What are we celebrating on May 5th?

As Americans, many of us look forward to the tradition of celebrating Cinco de Mayo by using it as an excuse to add Mexican food and margaritas to our dinner menu. However, do we really know why we are celebrating?

It's Not What Most People Think

Cinco de Mayo, meaning ‘fifth of May’ in Spanish, may be one of the most misunderstood Mexican holidays. Contrary to popular belief, May 5th is not Mexico’s Independence Day (which is in fact celebrated September 16). Cinco de Mayo is actually celebrated to commemorate the outnumbered Mexican army’s unlikely victory over the French forces of Napoleon III at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862.

Educate Your Friends

So tonight, when you are sipping margaritas with your friends, impress them with a little history lesson and tell them what Cinco de Mayo is really about!

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Patient Registry, more than 30,000 people are living with cystic fibrosis in the United States with approximately 1,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

What is cystic fibrosis?

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and limits the ability to breathe over time. In order for someone to develop CF, they must inherit two copies of the defective CF gene – one copy from each of their parents. Both parents must have at least one copy of the defective gene in order for their child to develop CF.

Diagnosis

It is a multistep process to diagnose cystic fibrosis. It typically includes a newborn screening, a sweat test, a genetic or carrier test, and a clinical evaluation. More than 75% of people with CF are diagnosed by age 2 but some are diagnosed as adults.

Symptoms

It is a complex disease, and the types and severity of symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. Some symptoms include:

  • Very salty-tasting skin
  • Persistent cough, at times with phlegm
  • Frequent lung infections including pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Poor weight gain despite a healthy appetite
  • Frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty with bowel movements
  • Male infertility

Treatment

Each day, people with CF complete a combination of the following therapies:

  • Airway clearance to help loosen and get rid of the thick mucus that can build up in the lungs
  • Inhaled medicines to open the airways or thin the mucus
  • Pancreatic enzyme supplement capsules to improve the absorption of vital nutrients
  • Individualized fitness plan to help improve energy, lung function, and overall health
  • CFTR modulators to target the underlying defect in the CFTR protein

Raising Awareness

Visit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website to learn more about how you can help raise awareness and get involved!

The Background

Observance of World Day for Safety and Health at Work began with the International Labour Organization in 2003 in order to promote the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases. As of 2017, the annual number of deaths due to occupational accidents or work-related diseases was an alarmingly high 2.3 million.

Contributing Factors

Factors like new technologies and production processes, higher workloads, and much more contribute to the new and emerging occupational risks that arise. Since emerging as a global crisis in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge factor in adding to these risks due to not only the risk of transmission of the virus in the workplace but also due to the risks that have emerged as a result of measures to mitigate the spread.

Stay Safe at Work

Safety rules and regulations in the workplace are in place to protect you, and it is crucial that you follow these rules at all times. So today – and EVERYDAY – be safe at work!

April 25th is National DNA Day, commemorating the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953. The goal of this day is to offer students, teachers, and the public an opportunity to learn more about the latest advances in genomic research and explore how these advances may impact their lives.

What is a Genome?

Genome is the word used to refer to all of your DNA. All living organisms have their own genome, and each contains the information needed to build and maintain that organism throughout its life. To put it simply, your genome is what allowed you to develop from a single cell into the amazing person you are today! The genome has the important job of helping your organs to do their jobs, and it has the incredible ability to repair itself when it becomes damaged. And best of all, your genome is unique to you!

What About a Gene?

A gene is a segment of DNA that sends instructions to the cell to make a specific protein, which then carries out a particular function in your body. Nearly all humans have the same genes arranged in roughly the same order. So although our genome is unique to us, more than 99% of your DNA sequence is identical to any other human. However, a human gene has an average of 1-3 letters that differ from person to person. These differences are enough to make changes in proteins which impact the color of your hair, eyes, and skin and – more importantly – influence your risk of developing diseases.

So Much More to Learn

There is so much to learn about our DNA, and the National Human Genome Research Institute has a variety of resources available on their website. So take a moment to learn a little more about your DNA and what makes you…YOU!

In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day today, we invite you to take a moment to think about what your wishes are in the event of a medical crisis. This past year, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of discussing your wishes with your loved ones and documenting these wishes in the form of an advance directive.

Far too often, this conversation gets put on the back burner and people find themselves in a medical crisis with no plan. When this happens, it may be too late to receive the care you wanted. 

So what is advance care planning?

It includes completing an advance directive, also known as a living will. This is a written statement that details your wishes for medical treatment should you be unable to communicate these to your doctor or healthcare provider yourself. Advance care planning also includes appointing a power of attorney (POA). This person will be responsible for making your healthcare decisions if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Why is it important?

These are important steps to take to ensure you receive the care you want in the event of a medical crisis. NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach says, “It’s also important to remember that having these thoughtful discussions with your family and documenting your wishes can be a gift to your loved ones should you become critically ill and unable to speak for yourself. Your priorities will be clear to them,”

So for yourself and for your loved ones, please take some time to come up with a plan, discuss it with your loved ones, and document it in an advance directive.

See below for some resources from the NHPCO that can help with your advance care planning:

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