How Does Lifestyle Impact Heart Disease?

How Does Lifestyle Impact Heart Disease?

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Research shows one person in this country loses their life to a cardiac-related disease every 33 seconds. That translates to one in five people for an estimated 695,000 deaths each year.

While genetics can play a role in your risk for developing heart disease, so can lifestyle choices. In honor of National Heart Month, which takes place every February, we are shining a spotlight on the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.

Know Your Genetic Risks for Heart Disease

When a doctor assesses a patient’s genetic risk factors for a heart-related disease, they’ll usually start by asking questions related to family medical history. These are some examples of what they’ll look for:

  • Relatives with heart attacks or heart surgeries: Has a first-degree relative (a parent or sibling) had a heart attack or required stents or bypass surgery at a younger age? This includes men who are under the age of 55 and women younger than 65. If so, you may have a higher risk for heart disease.
  • Family history of heart abnormalities: Certain types of heart-related abnormalities and conditions can be genetic, too. Those include amyloidosis, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, and bicuspid aortic valve disease. Being diagnosed with some connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan Syndrome, can also impact risk. If you aren’t sure of your family medical history with regard to these conditions, talk with loved ones before your doctor’s appointment.
  • Loved ones with certain health conditions: There are some medical issues that can make you predisposed to cardiac disease. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are a few of the most common ones.

While the conditions outlined above can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing heart disease, lifestyle factors can also play a role.

Lifestyle Choices Linked to Heart Disease

Here are some of the steps you can take to lower your risk for heart disease:

  • Control cholesterol: An estimated 86 million adults over the age of 20 in the U.S. have high cholesterol, a leading contributor to heart disease. A healthy cholesterol can often be maintained with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Unfortunately, for some it will take more than healthy lifestyle choices. Work with your primary care doctor on a plan to regularly monitor and manage cholesterol.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke: Lung cancer is the disease most closely associated with smoking or being exposed to secondhand smoke. But experts at the CDC say tobacco use is also linked to heart disease. Living with or being around smokers on a regular basis can be dangerous too. If you are a smoker or live with one, talk with a doctor about a cessation program.
  • Limit alcohol consumption: This is another lifestyle choice that many people are unaware is linked to heart disease. Consuming more than moderate amounts of alcohol increases blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiac disease. It also adds empty calories to your diet. That can lead to weight problems and obesity, which also raises the odds for heart disease. If you aren’t sure what constitutes a safe amount of alcohol, check with your doctor or the CDC’s Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.
  • Be active: Exercise plays a key role in heart health, as does staying active throughout the day. A sedentary lifestyle is linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and more. By limiting the amount of time you spend sitting, you may be able to protect your heart’s health. If you have a job that requires you to sit, try to get up and move around at least once every hour. Do some simple stretching movements, make a lap around your office, or even march in place. Just keep moving.

Enjoy a Healthy Retirement at Heritage Senior Communities

From well-balanced meals and daily fitness opportunities to life enrichment programs that promote activity, we strive to create a healthy environment at Heritage. The best way to learn more is by calling a nearby Heritage community to set up a time for a personal visit soon!

How to Include Protein in Your Breakfast Menus

How to Include Protein in Your Breakfast Menus

Diet can impact how much age-related muscle loss we will experience as we grow older. Poor choices can cause a host of problems, including a loss of strength that leads to balance problems and falls. But a healthy diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and protein can lessen or delay a decline in muscle strength. That can help older adults avoid a disabling fall.

Research shows some people begin losing muscle mass as young as age 30. Each decade, we lose an estimated 8% of our muscle mass. It’s a condition known as sarcopenia. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, many people also begin to see their weight creeping up in their thirties and forties.

But there are steps you can take to minimize sarcopenia. In addition to adopting an exercise routine that includes weight training, eating the right foods can help. While it’s important to plan healthy menus for every meal, breakfast is the one many people skip. That can leave you feeling tired and less motivated to exercise and eat well-balanced meals the remainder of the day.

Protein Intake and Older Adults

The experts from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Nutrition suggest adults of any age should consume about 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed a Dietary Reference Intake calculator. You can use it to calculate how much protein you need in a day, as well as a variety of other vitamins and nutrients.

To help you determine the appropriate amount of each type of protein you should eat, here are a few general guidelines:

  • 3 ounces of meat typically contain an average of 21 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of milk will deliver 8 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of dry beans equates to 16 grams of protein

Breakfast Foods with Protein

Some breakfast foods that can help seniors meet their recommended daily protein goals include:

  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Reduced-fat cheese
  • Reduced-fat cottage cheese
  • Nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Tofu and soy products

A great way to make the most of your breakfast is to combine several forms of protein with fruits, vegetables, fiber, and other essential elements. Here are a few options:

  • Breakfast bowl: Create a breakfast bowl that contains Greek yogurt, fruit, and a fiber-rich cereal, like shredded wheat or raisin bran.
  • Oatmeal: Top steel-cut oatmeal with an egg or nuts and yogurt.
  • Protein smoothie: Whip up a quick smoothie with low-fat yogurt, peanut butter, fruit, and spinach.
  • Avocado toast: Another suggestion is toasted sourdough or whole grain bread topped with smashed avocado and an egg or dollop of Greek yogurt.

Healthy Meals at Heritage Senior Communities

One reason many older adults choose to move to a senior living community is to have easy access to nutritious meals. At Heritage Senior Communities, residents have their choice of menu options at every meal. Each one is prepared on-site at our communities.

Learn more about our commitment to healthy meals by calling the Heritage community nearest you today. We’ll be happy to schedule a time for your personal visit and even invite you to join us for a meal!

Why You Should Tour an Assisted Living Community During the Holidays?

Why You Should Tour an Assisted Living Community During the Holidays?

Because many families have loved ones scattered around the country, face-to-face gatherings might only take place a few times a year. During phone calls throughout the year, an aging parent or family elder might say they are doing fine and don’t need anything. Then a trip home during the holidays suggests otherwise.

Sometimes, adult children and family members aren’t sure if the changes they see in their senior loved one are normal signs of aging or something else. They also wonder how to tell if an older adult is safe at home or if it’s time to consider making changes.

Having the family together in person might provide an opportunity to talk about a senior loved one’s hopes for the future and where they see themselves living as they grow older. You might be surprised to discover an independent senior wants help but hasn’t known how to go about finding it.

What to Look for during a Holiday Visit with a Senior?

If you will be traveling to an aging parent’s or grandparent’s home during the holiday season and it’s been a while since you’ve visited in person, you may notice some changes. It could be the condition of their house and yard or their personal appearance.

“Warning Signs an Aging Parent Needs Help” is a good article to review and learn from. It can help you identify if the changes you notice in a senior loved one are normal signs of aging or a red flag for something more serious. It can be tough to distinguish between the two sometimes.

If you decide a family member does need a little extra help, whether it’s home care or a transition to assisted living, it can be difficult to figure out what to do next. Just bringing up the subject can be awkward. In fact, adult children often avoid having this discussion entirely and just hope for the best. Then a crisis occurs and families are forced to rush what should be a more thoughtful process of finding care.

Even if you initially think of it as a backup plan, becoming familiar with senior care options is important. The holidays are a great time to visit an assisted living community.

Why Families Should Visit Senior Living during the Holidays?

While it may seem like a terrible time to visit an assisted living community, the opposite is usually true. Communities are often festively decorated and have a wide range of activities taking place. Here are just a few reasons to schedule a tour when you are home for the holidays.

  • Faraway family members can participate.

When an older adult is beginning the search for an assisted living community, it’s important to visit in person at least once. It’s even better if you can tour the community several times. Having different sets of eyes evaluate any community you are seriously considering is helpful.

  • Enjoy the social life.

One of the most popular benefits of assisted living communities is the wide variety of social opportunities residents have. During the holidays, things are even more lively. Most communities are festively decorated and bustling with activity. High school choirs often perform, youth groups visit, and special family nights filled with goodies are planned.

  • Meet current residents and their families.

Just as your family is reuniting during the holidays, so are those of assisted living residents. When you schedule a tour, ask if you will have an opportunity to talk with current residents and their family members. This can help you gain a personal understanding of a community’s strengths and weaknesses.

  • Beat the post-holiday rush.

January is a busy time of year in assisted living communities. The phones are ringing with families who realized that their loved one needs help after a holiday visit. You can beat the post-holiday rush by exploring your options before the end of the year. Another bonus of visiting and planning a move now is that you will have first choice from open or soon-to-be-open apartments. If the community has a wait list, your senior loved one can be placed on it sooner.

Schedule a Holiday Visit to Heritage

With locations all across Michigan and one in Indiana, you’ll likely find a Heritage community near you. We invite you to call today to set up your private tour!

Tips to Help Seniors Boost Their Immune System This Winter

Tips to Help Seniors Boost Their Immune System This Winter

Indiana and Michigan winters are known for being cold and snowy. The rough weather can take a toll on the immune system, especially for older adults. Then there are concerns about the viruses that reappear or worsen during the winter months, such as influenza, RSV, and COVID-19. While they can be annoying and uncomfortable at any age, these viruses can be especially dangerous for seniors.

At this time each year, we try to share a few tips to help seniors and their family members pump up their immunity. It’s important because a healthy immune system is vital for everything from warding off disease to protecting you against infections.

Tips to Help Seniors and Caregivers Boost Their Immune System

A few ways you can give your immune system the boost it needs before the worst of winter arrives include:

  • Adopting a healthy diet: When the days are frigid and gray, many of us seek comfort. We might spend more time on the couch curled up watching television or with a book. Our need for comfort often includes overindulging in foods that are high in carbs and sugar. While you might get a short-term boost from those types of snacks and meals, they will leave you feeling more tired and sluggish in the long run. Winter might be a great time to explore a new way of eating. One diet that receives the highest marks from experts year after year is the Mediterranean Diet. Rich in lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s believed to help guard against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer. The Mediterranean lifestyle also places high value on hydration, whether it’s drinking water or eating fruits and vegetables known for being hydrating.
  • Being active: Winter weather often forces people to spend more time indoors. Doing so makes it much too easy to slip into unhealthy habits, such as watching too much television and skipping exercise. That combination is bad for your body’s natural immunity. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. Fortunately, there are many options for exercising indoors during winter Tech products, such as an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, can remind you it’s time to get up and move. Tai Chi, Pilates, cycling on a recumbent bike, using resistance bands, and practicing chair yoga can be done in the privacy of your own home.
  • Protecting mental health: When the winter winds blow, people often feel melancholy and sad. Others experience higher amounts of stress and anxiety. Each of these can negatively impact your body’s immunity. Another health matter to be aware of is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It can lead to a serious case of depression. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place for nurturing the spirit. A few options to explore are meditation, arts and crafts projects, journaling, or music therapy.
  • Sleeping well: Insomnia and other sleep problems increase with age. It can be the result of a lack of exercise, a medication, sleep apnea, and more. If you are struggling to get a good night’s rest, talk to your physician. They might have some suggestions for you to try, including referring you for a sleep study to help identify the root cause and potential treatment options.
  • Updating vaccines: If you haven’t seen your primary care physician this year, schedule an appointment for a physical. That will provide you with an opportunity to check in with your doctor about which vaccines you need. From an annual flu shot to the new RSV vaccine, there are good tools for protecting against common viruses. If you do come down with the flu or COVID-19, for example, being vaccinated helps you avoid hospitalization.

Try Respite Care at Heritage This Winter

If the idea of you or a senior loved one spending winter months at home alone causes stress, you might want to consider a respite stay at Heritage. You can be our guest for a few weeks or months. During your short-term stay, you’ll enjoy the same amenities and services as our long-term residents.

From opportunities to socialize to well-balanced meals, it’s a great way to make the winter a little less cold and lonely. Call a Heritage community near you to learn more!

How to Help a Senior Winterize Their Car

How to Help a Senior Winterize Their Car

Winter is nearly here again for those of us in Michigan and Indiana. When it arrives, ice, snow, and frigid temperatures can be tough on a vehicle. Yet, winterizing the car is sometimes overlooked.

Even if your senior loved one doesn’t drive much anymore, it’s still important to check their vehicle for winter readiness. This list is a great resource to help you learn how to winterize their car.

Winter Safety Checklist for a Loved One’s Car

  • Have a mechanic check the brakes and exhaust: Snowy streets and parking lots can cause drivers to use their brakes more often than in good weather. It’s important to make sure they are in good condition before the snow flies. Ask your mechanic to check them out. While you are there, also have them check the exhaust system for carbon monoxide leaks. This is especially essential during the winter months when car windows are mostly kept closed.
  • Test the heater, defroster, headlights, and taillights: Drivers count on each of these car features on cold winter days. Since there are fewer daylight hours during winter, making sure no lights are burned out is vital. The heater and defroster are equally essential to safe driving, so make sure to try those out as well.
  • Check the tires: Tire tread depth and tire pressure are two additional items that need to be inspected on a senior loved one’s vehicle. The penny test is an easy way to determine the status of the tire treads. Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual for the recommended tire pressure. It’s best to replace aging tires before the snow falls and roads become hazardous.
  • Replace or refill fluids: Coolant, wiper fluid, and oil all need to be refilled or replaced on a regular basis. This is another task the vehicle owner’s manual will provide guidelines on. Unless you have experience maintaining cars, you’ll probably want to leave the oil change to a professional.
  • Invest in a senior-friendly ice scraper: Most people who live in colder climates will be scraping ice and snow off their car windows during the winter. That’s why it’s important to have a sturdy scraper. One that also has a brush to dust off snow is best. These reviews might be helpful in finding a long-handle or extendable ice scraper for your senior family member.
  • Keep a winter safety kit in the car: Put together and stash a winter safety kit in the backseat of the vehicle. Stock it with essentials the senior might need in case of an emergency. While no one likes to think the worst will happen, it’s best to be prepared. A flashlight, cell phone power bank charger, blankets, flares, candles, matches, protein bars, and bottled water should all be in the bag. Also consider adding a change of clothing, boots, and essential medications.

More Winter Safety Reminders for Older Adults

While you are preparing a senior for winter weather, here are a few additional tips drivers should keep in mind:

  • Watch the tank: Keep your gas tank at least half full during the winter. Should you need to pull off to the side of the road, having enough gas will allow you to turn your car on every 30 minutes to stay warm.
  • Monitor the weather: Even a quick trip to the grocery store can become dangerous when an unexpected winter storm blows through. If you don’t already, consider adding a weather app to your smart phone. You’ll be able to receive alerts when hazardous weather is on the horizon.
  • Keep cupboards stocked: No one wants to be forced to drive on a cold, snowy day or stand in long lines at the grocery store as a storm approaches. That’s why it’s important to keep an adequate supply of food and medication on hand all winter long. Don’t forget to do the same for your pets, too.
  • Explore alternative transportation: Ride sharing services or local Dial-A-Ride programs can help older adults avoid driving during the winter. If you aren’t familiar with those in your loved one’s area, call their local agency on aging. They’ll likely have a list of transportation options they can share with you.

If you need some ideas on how to get your loved one’s house ready for winter too, this information might be useful.

Let Heritage Do the Driving

Transportation is one of the most popular resident services at Heritage Senior Communities. From physician appointments to trips to the local shopping mall and other popular attractions, call a nearby Heritage community to learn how our transportation services work!

How Does Medicare Part A Differ from Part B?

How Does Medicare Part A Differ from Part B?

Medicare is the nationwide insurance program for individuals who have qualifying disabilities and seniors. For many of the over 61,000 people who participate in Medicare and their loved ones, the benefit remains confusing. The program has several parts ranging from A to D, and each one covers a different type of care.

Medicare Part A versus Medicare Part B

Medicare Parts A and B cover a broad range of services. People often have trouble distinguishing the benefits of one part of the program from another, especially these two. An easy way to keep them straight is to think of A as hospital/inpatient insurance and B as medical insurance.

Part A of the Medicare benefit covers:

  • Part or all of a hospital stay (fewer deductibles and co-pays)
  • Short-term rehabilitation in a skilled nursing center
  • Home health care services
  • End-of-life hospice care

By contrast, Medicare Part B helps pay for physician office visits and other types of preventative care and screenings. For example, most people qualify for a diagnostic colonoscopy every ten years, along with annual prostate screenings, mammograms, and flu shots. It also might pay for durable medical equipment and other outpatient services.

Costs Associated with Medicare Parts A and B

While Medicare Part A is free for most people who worked at least ten years or had a spouse who did, there are other costs Medicare recipients incur. The first is a $1,600 annual deductible.

The following costs apply to hospital and mental health facility stays:

  • There is no coinsurance for the first 60 days (once the deductible for the year is met).
  • From day 61 through 90, a coinsurance rate of $400 per day will apply.
  • After day 90, a Medicare recipient will incur an $800 per day coinsurance for a total of 60 “lifetime reserve” days. Once the 60 lifetime reserve days are exhausted, the patient is then responsible for all costs.

For a stay at a skilled nursing facility, the first 20 days do not require a Medicare co-pay. From day 21 to day 100, a coinsurance of $200 is required for each day. Beyond 100 days, the patient is then responsible for all costs.

Unlike Medicare Part A, Part B has a premium. In 2023, the monthly premium for Part B is $164.90. Most seniors pay this amount, but those with incomes of $97,000 or higher might pay more.

Medicare Part D Benefit

One last thing to be aware of is the Medicare Part D benefit. Older adults who don’t take any prescription medications often ask if and why they need to enroll in Medicare Part D. This part of the benefit covers prescriptions. While most beneficiaries aren’t required to sign up, you will have to pay a monthly penalty if you do enroll after the Initial Enrollment Period ends.

The penalty is currently 1% of the monthly premium ($32.74 in 2023) multiplied by the number of months you didn’t have creditable prescription coverage. This penalty is why financial planners often suggest people sign up for a Part D plan when they first enroll for Medicare.

Learn about Medicare Open Enrollment

Fall is the one time of year when Medicare recipients can make changes to their existing coverage. Open enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th every year. If this is the first time you or a senior loved one is navigating this period, you might find this article to be of interest.