Protect Your Heart With Agency Programs

When it comes to your physical health, protecting your heart should be a top priority.

During American Heart Month 2021 and all year long, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is working to help educate residents in its 35-town service area to help prevent heart disease, and to share information about its programs and services that help those living with a heart condition.

Heart disease is a term for any condition that affects the heart’s structure and function. Annually, about 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Women often aren’t diagnosed with heart disease until about 10 years later in life than men, yet it remains the #1 killer of women.

Women often experience symptoms other than the recognizable chest pain, and men and women alike often don’t realize their risk factors for heart disease.

Coronary heart disease – which is commonly understood as clogged arteries – is the most common type of heart disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, a smoking habit, being overweight or obese, having diabetes or prediabetes, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet, a family history of heart disease, preeclampsia during pregnancy and, for women, being over age 55.

Women who have gone through early menopause are twice as likely to develop heart disease.

Having just a single risk factor greatly increases the chances of developing heart disease, and the more risk factors a person has, the more serious concern should be. In Connecticut alone, 155,000 people have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, according to the NHLBI.

The good news is that simple steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or to keep the disease from progressing and nearly 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable.

Heart Disease Prevention

Having your blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked and discuss with your health provider what these numbers mean in terms of your risk for heart disease can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers Ask the Nurse clinics, currently held by appointment only, at which a registered nurse can check these numbers for you and work with you to set health goals and determine what questions you should ask your doctor. There is no cost for this service. VNACHCH offers cholesterol lipid profile and blood sugar screenings with immediate results and nurse counseling for $35 in our Guilford and Hamden offices. Appointments for these services can be scheduled by calling our Helpline at 866.474.5230.

Individuals who qualify may also benefit from our two-week Self-Monitored Blood Pressure program. Measuring blood pressure at home and sharing the information collected with your doctor has been show to improve blood pressure control. During this two-week program, participants are taught how to measure and track blood pressure while also receiving one-on-one coaching and education from a VNACHCH nurse, a medication review, and teaching to implement lifestyle changes at home. Call our Helpline for more information.

Heart Disease Management

For those on a cardiac health journey, VNACHCH offers its Better Beats Cardiac Care program. Experienced cardiology nurses offer care for many reasons including: after cardiac surgery, when a patient is on a new cardiac medication or a new low fat/low salt diet, when a patient has a new cardiac diagnosis, when a patient has a post myocardial infarction, stent placement or CABV/valve surgery, when a patient has Coronary Artery Disease or if a patient’s treatment plan changes.

As part of its chronic illness support program, VNACHCH nurses are also available for patients with congestive heart failure. Cardiac visiting nurses conduct patient assessments; teach self-care and medication management and monitor patients using telemonitoring. An easy-to-use wireless telemonitor gives nurses daily insight into cardiac health changes. Cardiac nurses update patients’ physicians on condition and treatment plan changes. Patients are able to check weight, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels regularly through the telemonitor to help prevent a trip to the hospital.

End of life care

The hospice team at VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is specially trained in how to assess and treat end-stage cardiac patients to help them achieve their best possible level of comfort and quality of life during the end-of-life phase.

Patients are eligible for hospice once their physicians make a determination that life expectancy is six months or less. Hospice care can help manage the symptoms of end-stage cardiac disease – such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness and other decline. Hospice works with families and caregivers to offer the level of care required in a private way that is tailored to individual needs.

Those experiencing increasing symptoms of congestive heart failure while at rest who’ve had recurrent hospitalizations or ER visits, those suffering from other health issues such as renal disease, COPD or dementia, or those who have been told surgery or cardiac devices are no longer an option, may find hospice is the right choice.

To learn more about our hospice program, click here.