By Ann Marie Moran, RN

Hypertensive heart disease (HHD) is the leading cause of death for all Americans. HHD increases with age, and includes heart failure, coronary artery disease, and other conditions.

Each year, approximately 100,000 home care patients in the U.S. report a prior stroke, and a recent study at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Center for Home Care Policy & Research further shows that, at start of care, recurrent stroke risk is high for many patients and in particular, African Americans, due to uncontrolled blood pressure.

The American Heart Association (AHA), says nearly half of all Americans have hypertension, or high blood pressure, and many don’t even realize they have it. For African American men and women, the risk for developing hypertensive heart disease is even higher as roughly 40 percent are estimated to have high blood pressure.

As a Registered Nurse with VNSNY CHOICE and The Eddy Visiting Nurse Association, I work with many patients who are diagnosed with these conditions. I educate them on managing their disease and help them follow simple tips that get them on track for making healthier lifestyle choices. Here are a few of those helpful reminders.

Limit Saturated Fat. Eating too much saturated fat can increase the cholesterol level in your blood, ultimately increasing you risk of heart disease. Opting for leaner meats and lower-fat dairy products helps.

Eat Fish. Fish is a great source of omega-3 fats, which can help protect against heart disease.

Restrict Salt Intake. Try to avoid adding salt to food you are cooking and do not add it to premade food. The AHA recommends adults eat less than 2,300 mg of salt daily, about one teaspoon, but the ideal limit is 1500 mg (approximately 1/2 tsp).

Hungry? Try Fiber. Fiber, such as oats, wholegrains, potatoes, fruits and vegetables, can help lower your risk of heart disease. Try eating at least 30g daily, which is approximately one ounce.

Read Labels. To make healthier choices, read the amount of salt content on labels and add to the amount you take in each day. Always check fat, salt, and sugar on labels when food shopping.

Stop Smoking. If you smoke, try to stop. Smoking is a primary cause of coronary heart disease. Your risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker in just one year after quitting.

Move. Even if you can’t get to the gym, remember that moderate activity can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. You can always march in place while watching TV. Taking walks – even just to the mailbox helps!

American Heart Month is a great time to begin implementing heart healthy habits, but it is important to keep up with these lifestyle improvements throughout the year. As always, it is important to consult your health provider before making significant changes.

Ann Marie Moran, RN, is a registered nurse and care coordinator with The Eddy Visiting Nurse Association and VNSNY CHOICE Health Plans.  Learn more by visiting or call 1-888-867-6555.