What You Need to Know About Your Heart Health

The statements contained in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of CMS. The authors assume responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in this document.

Your heart plays a key role in your health. It’s your body’s hardest-working muscle and will beat more than three billion times in your lifetime. We’ll help you understand why your heart health is so important to your overall health, risk factors and how your ACO REACH provider can help you live heart-healthy. Let’s dive in.

What is heart health and why does it matter?

Your heart health determines how well your heart pumps blood throughout your body. It’s important because your blood delivers oxygen to your body’s cells and helps to remove waste.

Sadly, too many Americans are at risk from heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Medical conditions and lifestyle choices can raise your risk for heart disease. Here are some examples:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Not being active
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Having an unhealthy heart can impact your quality of life, your lifestyle and your wallet. Without a healthy heart, you can’t do the activities you love whether that’s playing with your grandkids, riding your bike or walking your dog. You might have to make big and difficult changes to how you eat, move and live to get your health back on course. The costs can add up quickly if you need to take medications, go to the doctor frequently, become hospitalized or have surgery.

Is heart health different for various types of people?

While there are common risk factors for heart disease, specific groups can have unique risks based on their gender, race or where they live. Here’s how.

  • Women can experience different symptoms than men for heart disease that may look or feel like dizziness, back pain, heart burn or the flu. This might make it harder to spot a heart attack when it’s happening.
  • People who are Black, American Indian, Alaska Native or Hispanic are more at risk for heart disease than White Americans partly because they experience more barriers to healthcare.
  • Where you live can also increase your risk for heart disease. For people on Medicare, heart disease is more common in the Southeast, Midwest, Texas, Oklahoma and in pockets of Nevada and California.

How can your ACO REACH provider help you boost your heart health?

Staying healthy means having the right support systems in place. That’s where your ACO REACH provider and ilumed come in. Together, your doctor and ilumed can help you find out your risk for heart disease and develop an action plan to improve your heart health. Here’s how.

  1. First, your provider does a Health Risk Assessment with you. This helps us determine what things outside the doctor’s office effect your health like having enough nutritious food to eat, a safe place to call home and a reliable ride to and from the doctor’s office. If you don’t have those things, we help connect you to our resources like food delivery and transportation for doctor’s appointments. Here’s what Max, an ilumed beneficiary says about our transportation services, “You’re always on time. The vehicles are always nice and clean.” We also connect you to community organizations to make sure you have what you need to live healthy and happy.
  • From here, we develop a care plan that’s unique to you. It could include medications or lifestyle changes like adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, stopping smoking or becoming more active. We know how tough it can be to change habits, which is why our disease and case managers call you regularly to see how you’re doing and help you make changes. We also help coordinate your care between your primary care doctor, your specialist and any other providers you might be in contact with.
  • If you ever go to the hospital, we make it a point to call you within three days to see how we can help, whether that’s confirming you have your medications, helping you with at-home monitoring devices or just being there to listen. “I felt so good that somebody was listening,” said Wanda, another ilumed beneficiary.

A healthy heart is one that is cared for by you and your doctors. It’s a team effort. Those daily choices you make can make a difference at home and when you’re in the exam room. With the right healthcare team by your side, those choices become easier and have a bigger impact.

Want more health and wellness advice? Check out our blog.

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