Millions of older Americans live with cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke and hypertension, according to American Heart Association estimates.
These conditions have other serious health implications. One of the biggest is an increase of injury or worse from a fall.
“In the last century, many people with chronic health conditions spent long periods of time in hospitals being treated,” says Paul Adams, senior director of product management for Philips Lifeline. “That model has really changed to one of people spending much more time at home. A good example of this is someone who’s been to a hospital and been diagnosed with heart failure. Now, they’re living at home trying to manage their illness. When you have a condition like this and you start to feel unwell – whether because of medications or heart problems – your risk of falling increases.”
Conditions & Medications That Increase Fall Risk
Physical impacts from the condition itself or the medications used to treat it can make your more likely to fall down and be unable to get up. Let’s look at a few:
Heart Disease. A study of 145,000 Philips Lifeline users found that those living with heart disease are likely to fall 29% more than those living without a chronic condition. That’s because many symptoms or side effects related to heart conditions leave you feeling unwell and unsteady. Frequent contributing factors to heart patient falls include muscle weakness and fatigue; lightheadedness; dizziness; shortness of breath; nausea; swelling of the legs, ankles and feet; and fainting.
Stroke. Falls are also more prevalent if you’ve had a stroke. Hemiparesis, a condition marked by weakness and sensory imbalances affecting one side of the body, makes simple, every-day activities more difficult and possibly dangerous.
Beta-Blockers. Widely prescribed for the treatment of heart failure, high blood pressure, angina, abnormal heart rhythms and heart attack, these medications can cause fatigue, headache, upset stomach, dizziness and shortness of breath.
ACE Inhibitors. These drugs dilate blood vessels to improve blood flow. They also can cause dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness upon standing, swelling of the feet and ankles, and elevated potassium levels, which can lead to confusion, numbness of the extremities, and weakness or heaviness in the legs.
Statins. Designed to lower your cholesterol, these medications may impair mobility. They also can cause headaches, muscle aches, tenderness or weakness, drowsiness, dizziness, and nausea or vomiting.
Reducing Cardiovascular Risk
Reducing risk goes a long way toward improving cardiovascular health. Or course, we can’t control our age or family history, but we can control risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol level.
Aim for the following targets, from the NIH via Medline:
- Blood pressure: 120/80 mm Hg or lower
- Total cholesterol: below 200 mg/dL
- HDL (good) cholesterol: above 60 mg/dL
- LDL (bad) cholesterol: below 100 mg/dL
- Triglycerides: below 150 mg/dLFasting blood glucose: between70 and 100 mg/dL
Talk to your doctor about steps you could take to right any numbers that are outside the preferred targets.
Increasing Confidence & Independence
You can reduce the risk of complications from a cardiovascular-related fall, too.
Personal emergency response systems provide access to help with the press of a button, so you can get the help you need fast. Some models include fall detection and auto response features, so that when fall is sensed, the unit can automatically signal for help, even if you don’t press the button1. Using a variety of locator technologies, units like the Philips GoSafe 2 can even pinpoint your location2.
“We know exactly where you are without you having to respond,” Adams adds. “That’s a massive advancement in terms of supporting people at home. With the technology that exists today, we can make major changes in the quality of life for people with conditions like heart disease.”
Rapid response crucial for your safety after a cardiovascular event. Personal emergency response systems make it possible for you to remain confident, independent and in charge of your life.
Living safely and independently is easier when we manage risks related to cardiovascular health and falls.
1 AutoAlert does not detect 100% of falls. If able, users should always push their button when they need help. Button signal range may vary due to differing environmental factors.
2 Coverage outside the home provided where AT&T wireless network coverage is available.