I don’t know about you, but usually by the time February rolls around I’m finding it difficult to stick to my New Year’s resolution of living a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, in the United States, heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability for both men and women. Nearly 700,000 people die of heart disease in the U.S. each year, which is about 29 percent of all U.S. deaths.
The American Heart Association has designated February as American Heart Month, and I’d like to share some of the ways the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is making it easier to maintain a healthy heart.
Medicare covers a yearly wellness visit, which is a great opportunity for you to sit with your doctor and ask about your risk for heart disease. Your doctor will be able to share specific information based on your medical history that may help lower your risk of heart disease. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare now covers a number of preventive screenings. Ask your doctor about tests for your cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels to help determine if you’re at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers screening tests for cholesterol, lipid and triglyceride levels every five years.
Smoking is also a major contributor to heart disease. If you smoke, the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to quit. Medicare covers tobacco-use cessation counseling for all people who smoke or use other tobacco products, including up to eight face-to-face visits during a 12-month period. Ask how you can get help through this benefit at your next wellness visit.
Preventing heart disease is one of the smartest things you can do to protect your health. Most heart disease develops over time, so living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to keep your heart in good shape. Although it’s not always easy, here are a few tips to keep you and your heart healthy:
• Watch your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Eat a healthy diet and limit fried and fatty foods.
• Stay active.
• Find healthy ways to cope with stress.
• Don’t smoke.
You can register at MyMedicare.gov to get personalized information about your Medicare health care claims and updates about heart screenings and other preventive services. You can also find information about Medicare health and prescription drug plan options in your area that can help you stay healthy.
For information, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE. (TTY, 1-877-486-2048).
Ray Hurd is acting regional administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Boston regional office.