Health

Aging Population Leads to Rise in Stroke Risk, Says American Heart Association

It may be hard to think about getting exercise or eating the recommended amount of vegetables in this heat wave, but both are important says the American Heart Association, who released a statement forecasting the rising risk and cost of strokes in the US. According to a press release:

The association cites the aging U.S. population as the main reason for the increases and predicts that by 2030:
  • Almost 4 percent of U.S. adults — nearly one in 25 — will have a stroke. This translates into an additional 3.4 million people with stroke in 2030.
  • Costs to treat stroke may increase from $71.55 billion in 2010 to $183.13 billion.
  • Annual costs due to lost productivity could rise from $33.65 billion to $56.54 billion.
  • Americans currently 45-64 years old are expected to have the highest increase in stroke at 5.1 percent.
  • Stroke prevalence is projected to increase the most among Hispanic men between now and 2030, and the cost of treating stroke in Hispanic women is expected to triple.
The fourth leading cause of death and one of the top causes of preventable disability in the United States, stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blood clot or a bleeding vessel. Without oxygen-rich blood, brain cells die.

Life's Simple 7 Success Plan / American Heart AssociationDespite these daunting numbers, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) tool can help reduce the risk of stroke. According to a post on NIH Research Matters, a study showed that “each better LS7 score category (inadequate to average to optimum) was associated with a 25% lower risk of stroke.” Researcher Dr. Mary Cushman of the University of Vermont found that “small differences in health status were associated with significant reductions in stroke risk.”

Life's Simple 7 Heart Score / American Heart AssociationNow you can access this same tool in a user-friendly online format to identify stroke risk and learn how to keep your heart healthy. Life’s Simple 7 asks you a series of questions about your health and habits in order to calculate your “heart score,” a number between zero and ten which serves as an indication of your overall cardiovascular health.

The tool also shows you where you are now in the seven areas of heart health — including three measurements of blood characteristics and four ways in which your health is impacted daily — and gives you suggestions for improvement. Check off the steps you want to take in order to improve your heart health, then print or save your report as a pdf. Bring the report to your next wellness exam or keep it as a motivational tool to continue improving your cardiovascular health.

Do you want to incorporate wellness testing like the LS7 into your Assisted Living community’s activity programming? You may find inspiration in Merrill Gardens‘ resident education program, MG Achieve, which recently won the 2013 Innovations in Quality Award. Through this program, residents can earn degrees in subjects such as Fitness or Health & Wellness; they set goals similar to those users can set with LS7, and when the achieve those goals, they graduate. Learn more about MG Achieve and advice about setting up a similar program in your community.

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