Caregiver’s Guide to Heart Health: Supporting Your Loved One with Heart Disease 

READ TIME: 6 MINUTES

By HomeWell Care Services

February 15, 2024

Caregiver’s Guide to Heart Health: Supporting Your Loved One with Heart Disease 
Caregiver’s Guide to Heart Health: Supporting Your Loved One with Heart Disease 

With 17% of Americans aged 65 and older grappling with coronary heart disease (CHD), the impact of declining heart health on the aging population is undeniable.1 For these millions of older adults, living with heart disease is a reality that comes with unique challenges, affecting not just them but also those who care for them.

Fortunately, with the right support system in place, individuals with heart disease can manage the condition more effectively and experience an improved quality of life. In this blog, we’ll equip you with the knowledge to navigate the complexities of heart health as a family caregiver, helping ensure you are prepared to provide the best possible support for your loved ones. 

Understanding the Aging Heart 

Understanding the aging heart is critical for caregivers looking after loved ones with heart disease. As we age, several physiological changes occur that can increase the risk of developing heart conditions, including the following:  

  1. The heart muscles tend to thicken over time, and this thickening, known as left ventricular hypertrophy, can make it harder for the heart to pump blood efficiently. As the heart works harder to pump blood through the body, this can lead to increased blood pressure, a common condition in older adults​​. 
  2. The arteries that supply blood to the heart can become stiffer and less elastic. This stiffness, known as arteriosclerosis, can lead to higher blood pressure and make the heart work harder. Over time, this can contribute to the risk of heart failure and other cardiovascular diseases​​.
  3. Age-related changes in the “electrical system” of the heart can lead to arrhythmias, which are changes in the regular beat of the heart. These can range from harmless to serious conditions that require treatment.
  4. Lifestyle modifications play a pivotal role in managing and mitigating the risks associated with the aging heart. Encouraging a diet low in saturated fats, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, and avoiding smoking can all contribute to healthier aging of the heart.

Daily Management and Preventive Care 

Renowned Cardiologist Bill McEvoy offers his advice on how continued family support can help their loved ones prevent future heart health problems. 

People who have had a heart event are at the highest risk of a future event,” says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Bill McEvoy, M.B., B.Ch. “It’s common for a heart attack or other events to serve as a wake-up call to change unhealthy habits. But it’s also true that over time, you can grow complacent and return to the old habits that got you in trouble in the first place.”2 

Dr. McEvoy explains that the moment you’ve had your first heart attack, the chances of having another one increase significantly. It’s important to help your loved one make lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of further heart damage, and research tells us that coronary artery disease is the leading cause of heart attacks.3 Here are some things to keep in mind: 

Stay on Schedule with Medications: Establishing a consistent routine can significantly help your loved one remember to take their medications on time. Consider setting alarms or using pill organizers to help with the risk of double dosing or missing doses.  

Eat Right: Transitioning to a heart-healthy diet is easier when you help your loved one stock the fridge and pantry with heart-healthy food options. Opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Avoiding processed foods and those high in saturated fats can help manage cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of further heart complications. 

Move More: Incorporating physical activity into their daily routine can be a fun and effective way to strengthen the heart. Start with light exercises like walking in a local park or following an online workout suited to your loved one’s fitness level. Regular exercise has an abundance of benefits, but most importantly, it will help maintain a healthy weight and lower blood pressure to help improve overall heart health. 

Quit Smoking: If your loved one smokes, there has never been a more appropriate time for them to quit. Also, if anyone else in the household smokes, it’s important for them to do so outside to prevent secondhand smoke for the sake of your loved one’s heart health. Quitting smoking can rapidly improve heart function and decrease the risk of future heart attacks. 

Know the Numbers: Keeping track of vital health metrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body mass index (BMI) can provide insights into your loved one’s heart health and overall well-being. Regular monitoring at home or through healthcare provider visits can help detect potential issues early and adjust care plans as needed to maintain optimal heart health. 

Knowing the Signs of a Heart Attack  

Do you know the warning signs of a heart attack? With your loved one being at high risk for future heart complications, educating yourself about the warning signs can help you identify when it’s happening and respond promptly. Here’s what you should look for:  

  • Chest discomfort (including pressure, pain or fullness in the chest) 
  • Pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Cold sweat 
  • Nausea 
  • Lightheadedness 

If you or a loved one experiences any of these warning signs, seek immediate medical attention; it could save their life.  

The Caregiver’s Role  

Your role as the caregiver plays an important role in the lives of those with heart disease. You offer much-needed support, care, and love, which can significantly impact the well-being and recovery of your loved ones. However, the caregiving journey is often taxing, both emotionally and physically. That’s why it’s crucial to remember that taking care of yourself is not a luxury but a necessity to continue providing the best care possible. 

Self-care is fundamental for caregivers, but finding the time to care for yourself isn’t possible sometimes. That’s when respite care could make all the difference. Respite care is a vital service that provides caregivers a temporary rest from their caregiving duties. It allows you to recharge, focus on your needs, and enjoy a much-needed break. This time can be used for various activities you might not otherwise have the time for, such as socializing, pursuing hobbies, or simply resting. Respite care also ensures that your loved ones continue to receive professional and compassionate care in your absence, giving you the peace of mind you deserve. 

HomeWell’s Support for Heart Health 

In the journey of caring for a loved one with heart disease, caregivers stand as the cornerstone of daily management and emotional support. Recognizing the number of pressures and responsibilities they face, HomeWell Care Services can offer care plans designed to address the unique needs of seniors with heart conditions. These plans emphasize daily health management, personalized nutrition, and suitable physical activities, aiming to enhance the heart health and overall well-being of your loved ones.  

For caregivers seeking additional resources and support in managing heart health, HomeWell is here to walk alongside you to ensure the best care and quality of life for those you cherish. Learn more about how our services can complement your caregiving efforts by exploring our care for chronic conditions, including heart disease.  

Sources: 

  1. Coronary Heart Disease, Myocardial Infarction, and Stroke — A Public Health Issue | CDC
  2. Why Exercise Matters for Your Heart | Johns Hopkins Medicine
  3. What Is Coronary Artery Disease? Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention (webmd.com)

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