8 Tips for your Heart Health

Remember Sweetheart candies?

Tiny, chalky tasting hearts we’d give out–– and if lucky, receive –– on Valentine’s Day in  elementary school.

Sweetheart candies were imprinted with messages that said what our young hearts could not: Luv U, Be Good, Kiss Me. Oh the good old’ days. Now those messages are a little more…direct: Wicked Cool, Txt Me, UR Hot and Wink Wink.

Just in time for the month of red roses, cupids, and Sweetheart candies, we have a sugar-free message for you and your loved ones. And one that can save lives –– Take Heart!

February Is American Heart Month

At Marquis, we’re celebrating American Heart Month with red flowers and red hats to bring greater awareness to something we take very seriously at Marquis –– heart health. Did you know that since 1963, when President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation designating February as American Heart Month, cardiovascular disease continues to take more lives around the world than any other disease?

Marquis Targets The Risk Factors

We’re also celebrating how Marquis stays hyper-focused on our residents’ heart health. Our patient reviews and protocols target and reduce the known risk factors: diabetes, high blood pressure, valvular heart disease, obesity, arrythmia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, high fat and sodium rich foods and lack of exercise.

“From what we serve in the dining room, our health and wellness programs, the way we review and manage medications, monitor fluid and salt intake to the life-enriching activities that give our residents so much joy –– everything we provide is designed to improve heart health,” says Vicki Nordby, RN, BSN and 13 year nurse consultant with Marquis Companies.

(Check out our previous blogs on how you can lower salt intake, restore balance, and recognize and manage COPD.)

Take Heart’s 8 Tips –– Proven Path To Heart Health

Vicki will tell you that one of Marquis’ best tools for heart health is our Take Heart program. We believe Take Heart is one of the reasons Marquis has some of the lowest hospital readmissions in the country.

“Absolutely, our Take Heart program works,” says Vicki. “According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, heart failure is the number two reason people return to the hospital within 30 days of being discharged. A healthy heart helps keep you out of the hospital!”

The most recent data (7/1/21 – 6/30/22) shows the national rehospitalization rate ​for Medicare patients ​at 22.5%; Marquis’ rate is​ 9.26%. It’s also why, according to the American Health Care Association, Marquis is among the top three multi-facility corporations for quality and why Marquis facilities are awarded 5 stars from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Because of that success, hospitals increasingly turn to Marquis as a preferred partner helping patients manage disease.

So, Take Heart this month with us and follow these 8 easy tips for greater heart health.

You can use your own journal or some of the free, downloadable tools here.

heart-shaped bowl full of heart-healthy fruits

#1 Weigh Yourself

Before breakfast, weigh yourself and write it down. Compare it to your last weight. Call your doctor or nurse if you see a gain of 2 pounds or more in a 24 hour period or 5 pounds or more in one week.

#2 Take Your Prescribed Medications

Following the directives of your medical provider for medication management is essential to maintain the highest cardiac function.

#3 Check for Swelling in Your Feet, Ankles, Legs or Stomach

Swelling is an indicator of excess fluid in your system. Excess fluid causes the heart to have to work harder and/or exacerbates the ineffective heart function. Swelling is a warning signal. Report it to your medical provider.

#4 Eat Foods Low in Salt

Eat foods that are fresh, colorful and unprocessed. Salt hides out in a lot of foods we might think are healthy. Foods like sauces, frozen meals, canned goods — even the ones that claim to be healthy or say “lower sodium” — have too much salt, often 300 mg of sodium in a half cup! We have some quick and easy tips on how to reduce your salt intake in this recent Marquis blog.

#5 Watch and Record Your Daily Fluid Intake

Too much fluid forces the heart to work extra hard to pump the excess fluid volume. This can increase your symptoms: shortness of breath, weight gain, bloating and swelling of the feet or legs. Count all fluids you consume: water, coffee, tea, juice, milk and soft drinks, even fluids in foods that become liquid at room temperature. Those include soups, popsicles, frozen yogurt and ice cream. (Yes, we know. Including ice cream…that just isn’t fair!) What to do about dry mouth? Hard, sugar-free candy, a lemon wedge, frozen orange sections, frozen grapes or gum can help. Oddly, frequent brushing of your teeth also alleviates dry mouth.

#6 Balance Activity and Rest Periods

Your medical provider, nurse, physical therapist or occupational therapist can help you develop an exercise and activity plan that works on muscle strength and flexibility. They will also teach you how to plan rest periods around any symptoms, like shortness of breath.

#7 Everyday Determine Your Heart Zone

Knowing when to call your doctor is as easy as knowing these three color zones –– green, yellow and red.

  • The Green Zone
    This is your goal. Your symptoms are under control. You’re not experiencing any shortness of breath; weight gain of 2 pounds in a 24 hour period; ankle, leg or stomach swelling; or chest pain.
  • The Yellow Zone
    This is your warning zone. Call your doctor or home health nurse if you experience weight gain of 2 pounds or more in a 24 hour period or 5 pounds or more in one week (If your weight increases 2 pounds or more in a 24 hour period or 5 pounds or more in 1 week, notify your doctor or nurse); increased shortness of breath and difficulty breathing when lying down; increased swelling of your feet, ankles, legs or stomach; dry cough; dizziness; or an uneasy, “something’s not right” feeling.
  • The Red Zone
    This is the emergency zone. Go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately if you’re struggling to breath; or experiencing unrelieved shortness of breath while sitting still, chest pain, confusion and inability to think clearly.

#8 (Try to) Get 7 Hours of Sleep

We know. This one is a universal struggle, even though we know good sleep is vital to our physical and mental health. But now the call for more hours of sleep is urgent. A new study from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, affirms sleep can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Sleep helps reduce stress and inflammation, allowing your cells to “remodel” and your body and mind to heal.

So, set yourself up for success with the following:

  • Limit your caffeine intake to the morning.
  • Don’t nap too long during the day.
  • Avoid screen time before bedtime. The blue light emitting from your electronic devices triggers a chemical release in the brain that tells you to stay awake.
  • Limit fluid intake before bed.
  • Invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding.
  • Keep your room on the cool side.
  • If you snore, talk to your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea.

We hope you’ll take these 8 Tips to heart and use them during this, American Heart Month –– and throughout your whole life!