Be “heart smart” and protect your mobility

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It is also a major cause of disability, limiting the activity and eroding the quality of life for millions of people. People age 65 and older are much more likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes and to develop heart disease. This month, we are joining organizations all over the nation in recognizing American Heart Month to help increase awareness about heart disease and its effects. We are also encouraging those with heart disease or at risk for the condition to be “heart smart” by making healthy lifestyle changes and learning more about heart disease.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits, or plaque, in the walls of the coronary arteries over time. The coronary arteries surround the outside of the heart and supply blood nutrients and oxygen to the heart muscle. When plaque builds up inside the arteries, there is less space for blood to flow normally and deliver oxygen to the heart. If the flow of blood to the heart is reduced by plaque buildup, it can cause angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack. When the heart does not get enough oxygen and blood nutrients, its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body is diminished. As a result, the body’s cells do not work as well and performing normal activities may cause fatigue.

Signs of heart disease

A person in the early stages of heart disease may not have any symptoms or the symptoms may be barely noticeable. That’s why regular checkups with a doctor are important. The following symptoms should be reported to a doctor or health care provider:

  • Pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw or back
  • Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
  • Chest pain during physical activity that gets better when you rest
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach and/or neck
  • Reduced ability to exercise or be physically active
  • Problems doing your normal activities

Be “heart smart”

Making healthy changes can lower the risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower the risk factors:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Control your cholesterol, blood pressure and/or diabetes
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Get active
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Manage stress

If heart disease or another condition/injury is limiting your mobility, rehabilitation can help you improve the quality of your or get on the path to recovery. Rehab First is a highly specialized program dedicated to comprehensive short-term rehabilitation with a focus on comfort, support and results. We offer an individualized approach to helping patients manage pain and achieve their goals. Our dedicated team of professionals works seamlessly to help patients maximize function in a comfortable, home-like environment. To learn more about Rehab First, call 877-707-2280 or go to