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Some older adults and people with serious illnesses, unfortunately, experience the end of life in certain healthcare settings that do not align with their desired wishes. If you have a serious illness or are a caregiver of someone planning end-of-life care, knowing the difference between palliative care and hospice care can help you make an informed decision when the time comes to transition to one of these healthcare settings.
Palliative care is a form of care that focuses on improving your quality of life and that of your family when you are living with a serious illness. It focuses on your whole-person health rather than only on your condition. If you are receiving palliative care, your treatment plan may focus on reducing symptoms of your illness and on improving secondary conditions such as depression, sleep deprivation, and side effects of medications.
Palliative care may be given in various healthcare settings, such as at the hospital, a residential care facility, or your home. Anyone can receive this type of care regardless of age or the severity of their condition.
If you receive palliative care, you may work with and be treated by various healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, physical therapists, counselors, and nutritionists. If you need spiritual care, your palliative care team may even include a chaplain. The healthcare professionals that make up your palliative care team will depend mainly on your recovery needs and level of care.
Studies show that palliative care offers many benefits, including:
Hospice care focuses on improving your comfort and quality of life when you are nearing the end of your life. This type of care is usually given in circumstances in which an illness continues to progress despite treatment or when the patient chooses not to receive certain treatments. Hospice care is similar to palliative care in that it provides comfort care and support for the family. However, treatments are not given to improve the illness.
Like palliative care, hospice care can be given in many different healthcare settings, though it is most frequently given at your home, where you can be most comfortable and spend quality time with your loved ones. In addition, it is typically given when your healthcare provider believes you have no more than six months to live. Some benefits of hospice care include 24/7 access to nurses and healthcare workers who can address and relieve symptoms and side effects and access to medical equipment and medications that can reduce your discomfort.
Many of the same types of healthcare professionals that make up a palliative care team will also be part of your hospice care team. This includes doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers who dedicate their time to giving you the support you need and making you feel as comfortable as possible during your final months.
To be eligible for hospice care, you will discontinue aggressive treatment efforts to combat your terminal illness (such as experimental surgeries, aggressive chemotherapy, or other treatments that require prolonged hospitalization and recovery). However, you may continue to receive treatments for other conditions, such as antidepressants to treat depression or insulin medicines to control Diabetes.
Comfort care and end-of-life care are both terms that describe the type of care you receive when you are near the end of your life and are no longer receiving treatment for your illness. It is highly similar to palliative care in providing you with whole-person care that focuses on your physical, social, emotional, and spiritual health. Comfort care and end-of-life care may include palliative care or hospice care, or a combination of both.
Sometimes, palliative care is given as part of hospice care, and both types share many similarities. For instance, the goal of both palliative and hospice care is to improve your quality of life and help you find relief from painful and severe symptoms and side effects of treatment. Both types of care also focus on whole-person health. However, there remain many differences between palliative care and hospice care.
Some of these differences are:
You may want to consider palliative care if you or your loved one has a serious illness or chronic condition that requires long, intensive care or that causes severe physical symptoms and/or emotional distress. For example, cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and kidney failure are some of the many conditions that can benefit from palliative care.
Additionally, palliative care may benefit you if you:
A person may transition from palliative care to hospice care if their doctor thinks they have no longer than six months to live. Sometimes, it can be difficult for doctors to predict exactly how long it will take for a particular disease to run its course or how long a person has left to live if their health is in decline. In these circumstances, it’s important to consider how transitioning to hospice care could improve your quality of life during your final months.
According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), doctors should strongly consider referring chronically ill patients to hospice care if they spend more than half their time in bed, are unable to function efficiently, and are experiencing both physical and psychological distress. The NLM adds that hospice referrals are usually necessary when the patient’s condition has progressively declined to the point that their highest priority is to take control of their healthcare and achieve the greatest possible comfort in their homes as they near the end of life.
Talk to your doctor if you think you may need hospice care but aren’t sure when you should transition out of palliative care. Your doctor can talk to you at length about your options and the benefits of transitioning to hospice care based on your condition and unique circumstances.
Taking advantage of hospice care as soon as it’s needed could result in access to quality care and lots of extra quality time to spend with your loved ones. Additionally, studies show that patients who plan their care in advance are more likely to be satisfied with their care, given how they can make decisions that align with their end-of-life wishes.
Consult with your healthcare provider if you or your loved one is interested in learning more about palliative care or hospice care. Your doctor can refer you to a palliative or hospice care specialist who can answer all your questions and help you determine which of these services may be more ideal.
Palliative care and hospice care are covered by many major health insurance providers, including Medicare. The exact benefits covered will vary based on your health plan. Benefits covered may include medical equipment and supplies, skilled nursing care, bereavement support, and medications to provide comfort, among many others.
Abode Hospice and Home Health is a leading provider of home health and hospice services throughout the United States. Specialty services we offer include diabetes care, orthopedics, and pain management. Fill out our online form today to learn more about our many home healthcare services.
For most, the holidays are a time of joyous celebrations with family, friends, and delicious food. When you are living with a loved one or know a close someone with a terminal illness, the traditional holiday times don’t always carry the same cheer. Hospice is one service that can significantly alleviate some of the burden that lies on you as family members and friends to provide care to your loved one. Having a dedicated and caring medical team to help provide care during the holidays can protect the cherished time you have together.
The decision for a loved one to go on hospice is a challenging one. During the holidays, this decision can feel even harder. Oftentimes, families choose to push the decision until after the holidays, thinking it will alleviate stress to deal with it at a later time. In truth, hospice care can often make this transition period easier for you and your family, especially during the holidays.
When you choose hospice care, you are met with a team of medical professionals, therapists, spiritual counselors, and a number of other individuals that will cater to the needs of your loved one. Your hospice team will take on the responsibility of making sure the medical needs of your loved one are met so that you, along with family and friends, can focus on spending quality time with your loved one during a time when it matters so much. Depending on where hospice care will be provided, consider bringing the holidays to your loved one. Traveling is often not an option for those on hospice care. Modifying traditions to fit the environment of your loved one, whether care is being provided at home, a long-term care facility, or the hospital, can help to maintain the holiday feel. Holiday decorations, cards from friends and families, and home-baked treats can inspire the holiday cheer and can help make your loved one feel at home, no matter where they are.
While hospice has the ability to reduce stress and provide excellent care to your loved one, it does not guarantee that your holidays will feel the same as they always have. Try to keep in mind that traditions may have to be modified or left out this year and that it is completely okay to allow yourself to feel sadness during this time. Ask for help from family and friends to make this time of year manageable. Don’t forget to rest and set aside some time to take care of yourself as well. Given that some of the holiday celebrations may cause overwhelm, always check with your loved one to see what they are up for. This holiday season could be a time of many changes, so go easy on yourself if not every day feels easy to get through.
If you are in a position where you could benefit from hospice care for a loved one this holiday season, schedule an appointment to discuss your options with your loved one’s medical team. Terminal illness can have the power to make the holidays feel isolating and void of cheer. Hospice has the power to restore the joy in your holidays with your loved one.
Image 1 – Go Ahead And Put Up Your Christmas Tree (catcountry1073.com)
Image 2 – Family With Grandparents Enjoying Christmas Meal At Table | Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, a member of Covenant Health (fsregional.com)
Medcure – Hospice And The Holidays – MedCure
At Hospice of the Midwest, veterans are one of the incredibly special groups of
individuals whom we have the honor to serve. In our eyes, the men and women who
have bravely served our country and their families who sacrificed so much to support
them deserve to live out their days without worrying about end of life care. Our goal is to
provide hospice care that will help them live comfortably, with dignity and proper care
until their final day. Providing veterans with high quality, patient focused hospice care is
one way that we can give thanks.
Today, the percentage of individuals who volunteer to serve our country is small, less
than 1%. Fifty plus years ago, during World War II or the wars in Korea and Vietnam,
this wasn’t the case. A much higher percentage of young individuals were drafted into or
volunteered for the military. Those veterans are now entering an age group where they
may require end of life or hospice care, making the need for high quality hospice
providers more important than ever.
Understanding what exactly hospice care is can help you to determine if you or a loved
one qualify. Hospice care is reserved for individuals who are in their final months of life.
It is a way for individuals with terminal illness to continue having their needs met even
when a cure is not feasible. A team of experts provide comprehensive medical care,
pain management, comfort measures, and emotional and spiritual support to make sure
that the individual in care can live and pass away on their terms, even in the face of
As a veteran, hospice care is included in the VA’s standard medical care benefits
package. There are three criteria that veterans must meet in order to qualify for hospice
care. The three hospice criteria for veterans include:
1. A medical diagnosis of a life-limiting disease or illness
2. Treatments or care plan goals that provide comfort rather than a cure
3. A doctor’s assessment that life expectancy is 6 months or less if the disease runs
its usual course
If hospice care is provided to a veteran at a VA hospital or at an organization that has a
contract with the VA, no copay is required. This can help to alleviate some of the stress
for family and friends who wish to provide the best possible care to their loved one. The
hospice experts at the VA and at the organizations who partner with the VA are well
versed in providing individualized, expert care and can help navigate any questions or
concerns you may have. An additional benefit of hospice care for veterans is that it can
be provided in the comfort of their own home, or in an inpatient or outpatient setting.
This allows for flexibility and maximal comfort depending on the living situation of each
individual and their family.
Hospice care can completely transform an individual’s end of life experience and can
help to make the difficult transition for one’s family as smooth as possible. BrightSpring
Health Services is determined to ensure that every veteran has the opportunity to live
and die with dignity. Our mission is to offer support to you and your family in whatever way you need.
When you hear the word “diabetes”, chances are it hits home on some level. It may be a loved one, a parent, a friend, or yourself who is living with this disease. They are just one of 34 million Americans living with a diabetes diagnosis. Another 96 million have prediabetes. Of those 96 million, 80% of them do not know they have prediabetes, highly increasing the likelihood of developing diabetes down the road. The consequences of this disease are high, and the prevalence across our population is increasing. November is American Diabetes Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about how to prevent diabetes and improving the resources available to those living with it.
There are three different types of diabetes that contribute the most to the diabetes epidemic. They include prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, and type 2 diabetes. Though they are all a bit different from one another, all forms of diabetes are related to insulin and blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas and its job is to regulate the levels of glucose, also known as sugar, in your bloodstream.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as “insulin dependent” diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder during which the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed. When these cells are destroyed, the body cannot produce insulin. This results in glucose staying in the bloodstream rather than being taken up by the cells in your body. Over time, this causes blood sugar levels to rise without the body having a way to naturally regulate them back down to normal. Individuals with type 1 diabetes are often diagnosed during childhood or adolescence, though it is possible for adults to develop type 1 diabetes. The treatment for type 1 diabetes must involve taking insulin every day because the body cannot make it and checking blood sugar levels regularly throughout the day. Consuming a healthy, balanced diet and partaking in regular exercise should be included in the management of type 1 diabetes to help avoid complications.
Type 2 diabetes, also known as “insulin resistant” diabetes, is caused by the body not producing sufficient amounts of insulin or the body resisting the insulin being produced. In both cases, the body is unable to properly regulate blood sugar levels. The biggest risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes are obesity and high blood pressure. In the past, you would see this type develop most often in adults over 45. In recent years, the number of children and teens developing type 2 diabetes has been increasing as a result of poor nutrition and rise in obesity. Due to the nature of type 2 diabetes, it can be successfully managed through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight. In some cases, when lifestyle changes aren’t sufficient, type 2 diabetics must supplement with oral medications and insulin to help control blood sugar levels.
When blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, it is called prediabetes. While prediabetes isn’t technically classified as diabetes, it often develops into a full diagnosis of diabetes if no intervention is implemented. Awareness is the key to success here as many individuals may not develop symptoms until it is too late. Lifestyle changes that are implemented by individuals with prediabetes can often prevent or drastically delay the development of type 2 diabetes. These lifestyle changes include following a diet of minimally processed foods and regularly partaking in exercise.
If you or a loved one have already been diagnosed with diabetes or you suspect you may be at risk, schedule an appointment with your doctor to share your concerns and maintain regular checkups. Without proper care, serious complications such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), kidney failure and heart disease can occur. Preventing these complications requires adherence to treatment per your doctors’ guidelines, a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Diabetes is widespread across America, but it is not an insignificant diagnosis. This disease must be taken seriously and treated properly in order to avoid complications. Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to the medical resources and education that makes living a normal and fulfilling life with diabetes possible. Raising awareness and equalizing care is one of the major goals throughout the month of November. We encourage you to take the time this month to share this article with family, friends and loved ones. Encourage those around you to speak up about the risk and prevalence of diabetes in our communities. The more we open up the discussion about diabetes, the more we can band together in order to support our loved ones and improve the health of our community.
Visit The American Diabetes Association to learn more or to offer a donation towards ending diabetes. https://diabetes.org/
Image 1 – https://newatlas.com/medical/type-2-diabetes-protein-beta-cell-protection/
Image 2 – https://www.diabeticwarehouse.org/blogs/articles/diabetes-complications
American Diabetes Association – https://diabetes.org/
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/diabetes-facts-stats.html
Endocrine Society –
National Institute on Aging – https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/diabetes-older-people
Speare Memorial Hospital –
https://spearehospital.com/november-is-american-diabetes-month/# World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
It’s time to speak up about breast cancer, and the month of October is dedicated to doing just that. As the most common form of cancer, it’s likely that someone in your life whom you care for deeply has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Given how prevalent breast cancer is and the repercussions it has on individuals and families affected, this month is a time to rally together and raise awareness about it.
In the United States, more women die from breast cancer every year than any other form of cancer. It’s currently estimated that 1 in 8 women in their lifetime will be diagnosed with an invasive form of breast cancer. Two of the greatest risk factors of getting breast cancer are female gender and older age, though men and younger women can get it as well. The statistics are alarming, and a diagnosis can feel daunting and isolating, whether it’s yourself or a loved one or family member who is receiving it. Fortunately, breast cancer research continues to thrive, which has led to improvements in screening processes and treatment success. These improvements have been given some of the credit for the slightly decreased death rate from breast cancer over the past several years. In order to take further advantage of the strides we’ve made in battling breast cancer, we must continue to educate our communities about the screenings and treatments available.
While there is no way to guarantee prevention of breast cancer, it is recommended that all adult women perform a breast self-exam monthly. This is a great way to self-monitor for any changes or abnormalities that may occur in the breast tissue. As you age, this becomes an even more important habit as age is one of the main risk factors. It is important to note that not every growth or lump felt in the breast tissue is a cancerous mass. Some non-cancerous masses are abnormal but do not grow outside of the breast tissue. While these lumps do not innately pose a risk, some of these growths can increase a women’s risk of getting breast cancer down the road. Any abnormality or change in your breast tissue that you notice or feel should be examined by a health professional immediately. Just under half of women diagnosed with breast cancer were diagnosed after noticing a lump during a self-exam, so the importance of this routine cannot be overlooked. In addition to regular self-exams, maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and a nutritious diet is another important way to reduce your risk of breast and other cancers.
Should you receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, take the time to find a team of doctors whom you are comfortable with and trust with your care. This team can include an oncologist, or cancer doctor, a surgical oncologist, a radiologist, a case worker, a registered dietician who specializes in cancer nutrition and possibly several other specialty providers. These individuals will be with you, alongside your personal support system, to make sure you receive the best care available from diagnosis on. Treatments and interventions will differ depending on the type of breast cancer you are diagnosed with and your doctors will help you navigate all of the options and should use their expertise to recommend the best course of action. Make sure you feel comfortable asking questions and engaging in your treatment plan. Your providers have the knowledge and the skill sets to provide excellent care, but it is just as important that you feel included in the decisions being made and prepared for the treatment road ahead.
Whether you are young, old, male, female, part of a high-risk category or not, it is our shared efforts in spreading awareness this month of October and all months following that will successfully raise awareness, education, and resources about breast cancer to every individual diagnosed and every family and friend supporting them. As a society working together, it is within our reach to decrease breast cancer diagnoses within our communities and to improve the outcomes and survival rates of those diagnosed.
American Cancer Society
National Breast Cancer Foundation, INC.
As a survivor of breast cancer, few will understand the struggle you endured, but many acknowledge and honor the strength it took to carry on.
Alongside the relief and celebration that comes with completing treatment and hearing the long-awaited word “remission” may come a host of other emotions. Some of them may not be as positive. You may feel fear of the cancer coming back or anxiety about not seeing your treatment team as often. Surgeries and treatments can alter the way you feel about your body. These emotions are natural after what you’ve been through, and it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that you have resources at your disposal to live your life as fully as possible following recovery.
After completing treatment and entering into recovery, it is important to abide by your doctor’s recommended follow up care. This care often includes checkups every few months for the first several years after treatment. As your cancer-free time increases, the frequency of appointments can begin to decrease. If you had breast-conserving surgery to include a lumpectomy or a partial mastectomy, it is recommended that you get a mammogram 6-12 months after surgery and radiation and continue to get them annually for monitoring. Pelvic exams may also be included in your follow up care as some of the hormone drugs can increase your risk of endometrial or uterine cancer. Another test that may be done, especially if you have gone through menopause, is a bone density scan. Monitoring your bone health will be a priority for your doctor especially if your cancer treatment included drugs that can reduce bone density.
Battling cancer and enduring the challenges that come with treatment can leave you feeling exhausted. It can be challenging to find the energy to keep up with follow up care, knowing that it will be a crucial part of your life as a survivor. Express any concerns or anxiety or overwhelm you are feeling about your continued treatment and monitoring with your doctor. Collaborate with them and let them help you feel more in control when it comes to your checkups. Equally important as your medical team is your support system. Continue to lean on the individuals who supported you through treatment, whether it be family, friends, a loved one, a support group or a therapist. Support systems can often help to shoulder some of the burden when it comes to remembering appointments, driving to procedures, and encouraging you to continue doing the things you love outside of your healthcare.
Every single individual’s experience with surviving breast cancer is unique and special. You will have your own thoughts, feelings, challenges and success that you overcame and that you will continue to experience as you embrace a heightened awareness of your health for the rest of your life. Beyond this, you are an example of hope and strength for others who are fighting their own battle against breast cancer. Continue to spread awareness this month and every other so that we can continue to win more of these battles.
American Cancer Society
With a big initiative to provide education and resources to improve the physical health of more people around the world, the mental health of our society cannot be overlooked in achieving this goal. World Mental Health Day, which falls within Mental Illness Awareness Week, is a dedicated day that is honored globally once a year. While mental illness must be acknowledged and supported 365 days of the year, World Mental Health Day is a dedicated time during which the world comes together to raise awareness, increase support, and decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness. Each year Mental Illness Awareness week focuses on a specific theme, and the theme for 2022 is ‘Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority’. In doing so, the health and wellness of our society as a whole can be substantially improved. Mental Illness Awareness week runs from October 2nd through October 6th this year. Several important days during this week include the following:
Tuesday, October 4th – National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding
Thursday, October 6th – National Depression Screening Day
Monday, October 10 – World Mental Health Day
Everyone has mental health. It’s the way we feel inside, good or bad, to include our emotions, feelings, mood and more. While the emphasis of health is usually placed on the physical, mental health has an incredible impact on what we are able to do, ranging from our ability to socialize, go to work, provide for others, and take care of ourselves. It allows us to participate in and contribute to society. Similarly, our mental health can be impacted by countless things. Our work situation, home life, physical health, friends and family, financial state, even our genetics and the way we were raised, or an event that happened many years ago can play a role in determining the state of our mental health. Good mental health supports the way we work, learn, grow and interact with others. When our mental health is good, we are more resilient to the inevitable stresses of life. Even in times of good mental health come moments of sadness, despair, and struggle. These moments are a normal part of life and can even teach us how to overcome things in the future. However, sometimes these situations are too much for us to tackle on our own, and the impact they have on our mental health requires support. No one is too strong or too brave to be immune from these life events. It is better to reach out sooner rather than later when you feel like sadness, despair or negativity are consuming your days and preventing you from living your life so that you can work to restore your mental health.
Anyone, from any age group, race, gender, background or belief system can suffer from mental illness. Sometimes it can be challenging to differentiate between a bad day or a tough month from a mental illness, as there is no official test that can definitively tell us what is happening. Whatever you are feeling though is valid and could ultimately lead to more serious mental health consequences. Your thoughts and feelings should be acknowledged and supported and evaluated by a professional. Varying degrees of mental illness will require varying levels of support and treatment. Consider if you have noticed any of the following signs or symptoms listed below. This list is not comprehensive but does address many of the signs and symptoms that occur for some of the major mental illnesses. If you experience any of these things regularly or consistently, or notice a loved one or friend who may be experiencing them, reach out to a professional.
– Excessive worrying or fear
– Feeling excessively sad or low
– Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning
– Extreme mood changes
– Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger
– Avoiding friends and social activities
– Difficulties understanding or relating to other people
– Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired and low energy
– Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite
– Changes in sex drive
– Difficulty perceiving reality
– Inability to perceive changes in one’s own feelings, behavior or personality (”lack
of insight” or anosognosia)
– Overuse of substances like alcohol or drugs
– Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes (such as headaches, stomach
aches, vague and ongoing “aches and pains”)
– Thinking about suicide
– Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
– An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance
The impact that mental health and mental illness have on our society is huge. Consistently, research shows that individuals with mental illness have a shorter lifespan.1 in every 20 adults experience serious mental illness every year, yet only two thirds of those individuals receive treatment. Some of the major mental illnesses that individuals are struggling with in order of prevalence are anxiety disorders, major depressive episodes, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and schizophrenia. As millions of individuals across the globe are directly impacted by a mental illness of their own, just as many are indirectly impacted as they witness a loved one, a friend, a coworker or a neighbor struggling with a mental illness. The impact of mental illness goes beyond the individual it is affecting to interfere with the lives of many around them. Therefore, it cannot be on the individuals alone who struggle with mental illness directly to support and treat themselves. Our communities must band together to support those who need awareness raised and treatments provided.
The stigma that mental illness is a weakness or can be overcome by mental toughness leads to many individuals trying to keep their struggles quiet, ignoring their feelings, or resisting help, which only makes things much worse. Like any physical ailment or chronic illness, mental health must be addressed and treated in order to make recovery possible. This is only one of the many stigmas surrounding mental health. Others include societal stigmas such as viewing individuals with mental illness as violent, dangerous or crazy. Self-stigma, or the beliefs held by individuals with mental illness, can lead to lack of reporting or seeking out treatment out of shame or due to fear of society’s response. In order to decrease societal and self-stigma surrounding mental illness, we must normalize the reality of mental illness and continue to have conversations about it. Increasing discussions and public awareness, as well as making support more accessible to everyone, is crucial in order to increase mental illness reporting and mental illness treatment.
You can help to decrease stigma and raise awareness in your own community! Show your support this year by talking to friends, family members and coworkers about Mental Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day. Post about it on your social media, advocate for improving treatment access for mental illness, and continue to educate yourself on the topics of mental health. Together, we can better support our community!
Image 1 – https://sdgresources.relx.com/special-issues/world-mental-health-day-2021-0
Image 2 – https://www.siouxcenterhealth.org/latest-news-and-blog/tag/mental-illness-awareness-week/
American Psychiatric Association – https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/stigma-and-discrimination
National Alliance on Mental Illness – https://www.nami.org/get-involved/awareness-events/mental-illness-awareness-week
Rethink Mental Illness – https://www.rethink.org/get-involved/awareness-days-and-events/world-mental-health-day/
Mental Health Foundation – https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/world-mental-health-day
Everyone knows about heart attacks… but have you ever heard of atrial fibrillation? Despite being the most common heart arrhythmia (meaning irregular heartbeat) that is medically treated and being the cause for 1 in 7 strokes, most people aren’t familiar with atrial fibrillation. Surveys have revealed that even those who are aware of it often don’t consider it a serious medical condition. Education is key here, as leaving atrial fibrillation untreated doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and increases the risk of having a stroke significantly. It is estimated that by 2030, about 12.1 million people living in America will have a diagnosis of AFib. Considering how high that number is, it’s time to start paying attention to what it is and how you can mitigate yours and your loved ones’ risk factors!
So what is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation, abbreviated AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm during which the top chambers of your heart, called your atria, quiver rather than beat, leading to inefficient movement of blood through your heart. Given the inefficient contraction of the heart, individuals with AFib are at a higher risk for clots. The higher risk of clotting and the decreased ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently is what leads to an increased risk of further heart conditions and stroke should a clot form and travel to the brain.
While some individuals with AFib might not know they have it and may experience no symptoms at all, others could experience a number of various symptoms. Pay attention to the symptoms and take action. Consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following:
In addition to symptom monitoring, there are a number of risk factors to be aware of related to AFib. Considering the risk of stroke and heart disease increases significantly with AFib, mitigating the risk factors of AFib is crucial. Risk factors include:
If any of these risk factors apply to you or a loved one, consider if your risk factors are modifiable, meaning you have more control over reducing how much of a risk they pose. Focus on lowering your blood pressure, losing weight if appropriate, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake and quitting smoking. Consuming whole, natural foods when possible, incorporating exercise and purposeful movement every day, and staying hydrated can go a long way in preserving your health!
If you have already been diagnosed with AFib, it is important to continue to mitigate as many risk factors as you can using the guidance above, in addition to seeking proper medical treatment for your condition. Lifestyle changes, even after being diagnosed with AFib, can greatly decrease the severity and frequency of your symptoms. These lifestyle changes include cutting back on alcohol, reducing caffeine, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a nutrient rich diet, losing weight if required and lowering your blood pressure. When prescribed medications for AFib, especially blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots, it is imperative that you follow the guidance of your doctor and stay consistent with the treatment.
Given that AFib is a chronic condition, meaning it doesn’t go away, it is likely that you will be on medication to manage it for the rest of your life. This can be scary and anxiety inducing if you don’t understand your medications or don’t have a plan to stay on track. Meet with your doctor and be sure to understand what medications you are taking, why you are taking them, how long you will be taking them for and what side effects to look out for. You deserve to understand and feel comfortable with your treatment, so be sure to collaborate with your medical team and find support from your loved ones.
Atrial fibrillation – if it’s not taken seriously, it could cause serious problems!
Know the symptoms, schedule regular visits with your doctors, and practice a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk!
Image 1 – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm
Image 2 – https://www.mcrmedical.com/blog/aha-2020-guidelines/
Heart Foundation –
CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm
American Heart Association –https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af