February is American Heart Month, which is a great time to think about what you can do to ensure your heart is as healthy as possible. Cardiovascular disease kills as many people in this country every year as cancer, chronic lung disease, and accidents combined, and someone dies of cardiovascular disease every 37 seconds in the United States. Because there are so many preventable factors that are involved in cardiovascular disease, there is a lot that we all can do to reduce our risk.
Many of us start off the new year with resolutions focused around health: lose weight, decrease screen time, quit smoking, and exercise regularly. While we may have different motivations for these kinds of wellness resolutions, all of these are great examples of things that you can do to specifically improve your heart health.
Sounds easy, right? We all know that it’s harder than it seems. That’s why it’s helpful to talk to your medical provider about your goals, because they can help you achieve them. NorthLakes Community Clinic offers a wide variety of supports that directly relate to cardiovascular health.
We have been recognized by the American Heart Association (AHA) for our work on issues related to managing hypertension, or high blood pressure. When hypertension is not controlled, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your organs and limbs, putting a strain on your heart. Hypertension is often referred to as “the silent killer”, because most people with hypertension don’t feel any symptoms until they’re experiencing heart or organ damage. This is why it’s so important to have your blood pressure checked regularly so that hypertension can be diagnosed and treated.
NorthLakes focuses on helping our patients with hypertension keep their blood pressure in a healthy range through medication, care management, and education. Our staff receive regular AHA-approved training on proper blood pressure measurement technique to ensure your blood pressure reading is accurate. We also offer home blood pressure monitors as part of our care management, along with education and coaching to help our patients make lifestyle changes to improve their blood pressure.
Another risk factor for cardiovascular disease is poorly controlled diabetes. For our patients who have diabetes, we offer care management and education from registered nurses as well as our registered dietitian, Rebecca Crumb-Johnson, to help keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. Rebecca also leads a diabetes prevention group for our patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and of course, she is able to help anyone who is working to incorporate a more heart-healthy diet into their lifestyle.
Stress, and how we manage it, also affects our heart health. NorthLakes embraces an integrated approach to health and wellness, which is why, along with medical, we offer behavioral health services and community health worker (CHW) supports. Almost all of us are dealing with more stress in our lives these days and could benefit from talking with a professional counselor who can help us learn to manage our stress and develop healthy coping mechanisms. CHWs are available to help folks who are dealing with housing problems, lack of food access, social isolation, and other issues, working together to find solutions.
While just about all of us know what we “should” do to improve our health, there are lots of reasons why we don’t do it. Staff and providers at NorthLakes understand this and will work with you to develop a plan to improve your health, without lectures or judgement. Keep your heart as healthy as possible by scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider to talk about your cardiovascular health goals. If you don’t have a primary care provider, give us a call at 888-834-4551 to establish care with one of our providers and start improving your heart health!
Lori Cannon is a registered nurse and Clinical Care Management Specialist at NorthLakes Community Clinic.