February is Heart Health Month
By Mel Fabrikant Sunday, February 26, 2012, 07:59 PM EST
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. It’s also a major cause of disability. Nearly 700 thousand people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year. That’s about 29 percent of all U.S. deaths
The good news is that Medicare provides coverage for cardiovascular screening blood tests, ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) and smoking and tobacco-use cessation counseling for qualified beneficiaries. The even better news is that the Affordable Care Act makes many of these screenings and preventive services available at little or no cost to you.
Taking a preventive approach to heart disease is one of the smartest things you can do to protect your health. Just three steps to prevent or delay heart problems – and Medicare can help.
Step 1: Lower your risk for heart disease
Most heart disease develops over time, so living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your heart in good shape. Whether you are healthy, at high risk for heart disease, or have already survived a heart attack, the advice to protect your heart is the same:
♥ DO watch your blood pressure and cholesterol levels
♥ DO maintain a healthy weight
♥ DO eat a healthy diet and limit fried and fatty foods
♥ DO stay active
♥ DO find healthy ways to cope with stress
♥ DON’T smoke!
Step 2: Talk to your doctor
It’s important to ask your doctor about your risk for heart disease and what you and Medicare can do to lower your risk. Medicare covers a number of screenings and tests for those who qualify to check your cholesterol and other blood fat (lipid) levels to spot possible heart problems early. Medicare also covers treatments to help you quit smoking and lower your risk. Visit your doctor regularly to make sure you get the tests and services you need.
Step 3: Register at MyMedicare.gov
Register at MyMedicare.gov on the web to get personalized information about your Medicare health care claims and updates about heart screenings and other preventive services you can use. You can also find information about Medicare health and prescription drug plan options in your area that can help you stay healthy.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heart attack, calling 911 right away and getting to a hospital are crucial to the most positive outcomes after having a heart attack.
Heart Attack Warning Signs:
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:
♥ Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or dull pain.
♥ Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
♥ Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
♥ Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
For more information, you can also visit www.medicare.gov on the web. Under “Search Tools,” select “Find a Medicare Publication” to look at or print a copy of “Staying Healthy: Medicare’s Preventive Services.” You can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to find out if a free copy can be mailed to you. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.