Heart Health: Surprise Risk Factors

  • February 1, 2021
Heart Health: Surprise Risk Factors

Did you know there are everyday activities that can increase your risk of heart disease? There are more surprise risk factors than you would think.

We know diet, activity level, and stress play a large role in heart disease, but for older adults, fluctuating between medications, supplements, and lifestyles increases the risk. The onset of a headache, going on long drives, and how you brush your teeth are simple moments with potential to affect heart health as we age.

Preventative care for heart health is not meant to lessen your quality of life. Learning how to navigate these surprise risk factors can support lifelong heart health and independence.

TIme in Traffic Triggers Stress, Straining Your Heart Health

Increased time sitting in traffic is stressful on your mind and body. According to the American Heart Association,  excessive stress can contribute to high blood pressure, which can damage your arteries and contribute to heart abnormalities.

Staying home 24/7 is not realistic, but there are ways to be mindful of your time spent on the road to protect your heart health. First, think of alternatives for short appointments and consultations. Can you limit in-person engagements by using Zoom or another video-conferencing platform? Remote appointments not only reduce travel and time spent in traffic, but also reduce  your risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Next, grocery shopping is a necessity and requires travel to and from the store. Instead of sitting at red lights and adding stress to your day, try grocery delivery services. Consider Instacart, Walmart Grocery, or Amazon Fresh. These services shop for you by following the list you provide to them. Then, groceries are delivered right to your door.

Finally, avoid the stress of driving yourself by ridesharing with those who live in your household. Or, change up your typical mode of transit with a bike, train, or bus ride (if and when safe). Ridesharing takes the pressure off you as the driver, which gives you more time to focus on your mental wellbeing. Additionally, public transportation options are great for trips where you may have to drive in the dark, which can be very stressful for older drivers.

Finally, if you are a caregiver or are responsible for visiting loved ones, trade off visitation with friends and family to give yourself a break from travel.

Monitor Migraines to Keep Heart Health in Check

Did you know migraine sufferers have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease? While it can be easy to shrug off a small headache, understanding higher risk symptoms can save a life. The tell-tale signs of a migraine include:

  • Severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound

Migraine attacks can last for hours or for days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities. While anyone can suffer migraines, women are especially prone to migraines and account for two-thirds of migraine patients. If you are an older adult with a history of migraines, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor. Understanding your head health, helps you understand your heart health—and your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Another risk factor for migraine sufferers that affects heart health is reliance on NSAIDs (ibuprofen or high-dose aspirin). Though it can be tempting to use NSAIDs when you suffer migraine attacks, chronic use of NSAIDs is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events. Always speak with your doctor about healthy ways to combat migraines, but there are a few alternatives to NSAIDs that can help you manage your pain.

  • Use heat or ice
  • Rest
  • Dim the lights
  • Practice relaxation techniques
  • Know your migraine triggers and take preventative methods

There is one migraine symptom that cannot be ignored—and that is aura. Migraine with aura (MA)  is a potential life-threatening symptom. Aura causes visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light, vision loss, pins and needles, sensations in an arm or leg, weakness or numbness in the face or one side of the body, difficulty speaking, hearing noises or music, and uncontrollable jerking or other movements.

People who experience migraines with aura have an increased stroke risk. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your migraine symptoms, especially if you experience neurological symptoms such as aura. Migraine symptoms can mimic those of other conditions and it might be confusing to determine the differences. Talk with your primary care physician or consider seeing a neurologist if you experience any of the above symptoms. In the coming weeks, watch for lifestyle recommendations that can help reduce the risk of both migraines and heart disease.

Women Especially, Put Your Heart Health First

Heart disease is responsible for one-fifth of deaths among American women and the risk increases after menopause, with an overall increase in heart attacks 10 years after menopause. The women in your life aren’t a statistic. They are mothers, grandmothers, caretakers, daughters. Knowing your and your loved ones’ risks, helps you protect the heart from heart disease.

Women have to be proactive about heart disease because it can greatly affect your life and independence. Your mother or grandmother is more likely to suffer from consequences of heart disease because of her natural hormones that decrease with age. Senior women experience a natural decrease in estrogen during menopause that can lead to a multitude of risk factors. These include high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, and increased risk of diabetes—all of which must be monitored regularly.

One way to be proactive and monitor your health is by using a blood pressure monitor or cuff.  Brands like Omron provide easy-to-use cuffs that keep you in control of your health at home. A physical monitor is a great investment for high blood pressure. Second, maintain a healthy diet to combat unhealthy cholesterol and diabetes. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or bland. There are many food plans out there that give you the nutrients necessary to fight cholesterol without sacrificing taste.

The MayoClinic suggests:

  • Oatmeal, oat bran and high-fiber foods
  • Fish and omega-3 fatty acids
  • Almonds and other nuts
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Foods with added plant sterols or stanols
  • Whey protein

Women are 50% more likely to misdiagnose heart attacks by attributing symptoms to other common problems . Pay attention to the onset of any new symptoms, such as unusual fatigue, indigestion,  shortness of breath, sweating, lightheadedness or dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and pain in one or both arms. Women who have a history of starting their period early or late or having multiple miscarriages are 10x more likely to be at risk.

If you are a senior woman, discuss lifestyle and preventative plans with your physician or a consult a dietary specialist.

Plaque on Your Teeth Can be a Sign of Poor Heart Health

While the connection from teeth to arteries might seem like a stretch, the two are well-connected. Gum disease adds to the body’s overall inflammation burden, which is a contributor to heart disease. The good news is, controlling one type of inflammation can benefit another, so monitoring the signs and symptoms is essential.

Look out for and consult your dentist if you experience:

  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Change in the color of your gums
  • Gums that feel tender when touched
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Pus between your teeth and gums

People with gum disease are 2-3x more likely to have heart disease, but this risk is usually only a problem when combined with poor lifestyle choices such as a bad diet or smoking. Maintain a healthy, consistent brushing routine, which involves brushing teeth with a toothpaste containing fluoride at least twice a day. Elderly people should use a soft to medium toothbrush. You also should visit a dentist two times a year and alert your dentist of any new or worsening symptoms.

Loneliness Can Harm Your Heart Health

Our mental health directly impacts our physical health, as the two work in tandem. Loneliness can be the result of a life-changing experience like losing a loved one, being let go from a job, or a sudden change in physical health. While experiencing sadness is part of the human condition, it’s important to monitor loneliness.

Did you know that the risk of heart disease for people experiencing  long-term loneliness  mirrors smoking’s risks? Those experiencing loneliness for long periods of time have a 29% increase of heart attack and 32% increase of stroke. Loneliness is often linked to weaker immune systems and high blood pressure. However, there are solutions for combating loneliness and protecting your heart health.

First, keep track of your mental wellbeing by journaling. Writing down your feelings can help you release energy. It’s also a helpful reference when you talk to your doctor to know when your symptoms started. You can also talk to a professional, like a therapist, if you’re feeling lonely.

If you’re not ready to talk to a therapist,  talking to your loved ones is a great place to start. Call or video chat with loved ones (and visit when safe). Let them know how you feel and if your daily activities become too much. When you feel lonely, it’s important to know that you are not alone—you have people who care about you that want to help you get back on track to living life without limits.

Maining a healthy diet and consistent fitness routine, trying a new hobby, and spending at least 15 minutes a day outside, are also great ways to combat loneliness.

A comprehensive understanding of surprise risk factors is an effective preventative measure for heart disease. When you understand your risks, you gain the confidence to live life without limits. As a medical device company, Medical Guardian is here for you to help you maintain your health and independence as you and your loved ones age.

Our devices, like the all-new Mini Guardian, add an extra layer of protection. With 24/7 protection at home or on the go, the Mini is your go-to companion. Learn why our customers love the Mini to give them some peace of mind. Read about the Mini.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Medical Guardian is a leading provider of innovative medical alert systems that empower people to live a life without limits.


KEYWORDS: Heart, Health, Surprise, Risk, Factors