Retirement should be a time of joy and freedom, but too often these years can unfortunately be tainted by battles with chronic illnesses. And one of the most common is cardiovascular disease (CVD), often called heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.
That’s why February marks American Heart Month - a way to bring awareness to heart disease and help spread tips on heart disease prevention.
And to help celebrate American Heart Month, we’ll review some of the facts about cardiovascular disease, along with tips to combat it. Then we’ll dive into how your Medicare coverage can help you prevent, treat or manage cardiovascular diseases.
Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease CVD is a broad term for several different medical conditions.
But generally speaking, heart disease is an illness that affects the heart or circulatory system. The illnesses that fall under the heart disease category include:
Many of the biggest risk factors of cardiovascular disease are lifestyle related. And while there’s a general assumption that these factors are the sole cause, many people are actually born with heart disease. It can be congenital and hereditary.
But those with lifestyle risk factors have control over heart disease prevention. The main risk factors and causes of heart disease include:
Simply put, the lifestyle habits (good or bad) that we form are what lead to the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Genetics and heredity may then play a role in whether or not we actually develop heart disease.
As we mentioned above, the fact that so many of the risk factors for CVD are lifestyle related can be a silver lining, meaning we can make smart choices and avoid unhealthy behaviors to protect our hearts.
Now let’s walk through some healthy habits to maintain good heart health.
Quitting smoking is almost universally hailed as the biggest step to reduce your risk of heart disease. Smoking is considered the most easily avoidable lifestyle factor that leads to cardiovascular disease. So if you currently smoke, make an attempt to stop now. Quitting smoking will also save you money, making this heart disease prevention tip a no-brainer.
Diet also plays a big role in the health of your heart. A poor diet multiplies and compounds risk factors, but a smart, healthy diet can reduce your risks and get your heart in great shape.
You should always speak with your doctor about nutrition and heart healthy diet options. But generally speaking a heart healthy diet may include:
In addition to eating these nutritious foods, another suggested tip is to limit your saturated fat, sodium, and sugar intake. This type of diet fits into the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan.
There’s no getting around the fact that an active lifestyle is a healthy one. But you don’t have to jump right in and overdo it. In fact, gentle but steady exercises can be great way to help prevent heart disease, including:
The main point is to pick an activity that you enjoy. So if you have a scenic path, beach, or lake nearby, consider talking walks or riding your bike there. You should also have a backup plan for poor weather or to keep safe and healthy during COVID-19. Research home workout apps or programs on platforms like YouTube or you Smart TV.
But just remember: If you over-commit to exercise and activity, you may fall off the wagon completely. Instead, start small, and add time and distance gradually. If you make it a firm part of your routine, you’ll stick to it.
Again, always be sure to consult your doctor before developing an exercise or activity regimen for heart health.
One of the most important heart disease prevention tips is to stay proactive and empowered about your own personal health. This is especially true if you have a family history or genetic predisposition. Here are some key strategies:
If you’re on Medicare or aging into Medicare,and cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment is important to you, you’re in luck. All aspects of the Medicare program cover heart disease related measures. This includes Medicare cardiovascular screening, treatment, and healthy lifestyle tools.
Heart disease prevention and treatments are covered by:
In the most basic sense, Medicare will cover all the stages of cardiovascular disease, including:
When you use Medicare Part B under Original Medicare, you can expect to pay:
Medicare covers cardiovascular screenings, which involves a blood test once every five years.
But if your doctor orders more frequent cardiovascular screenings and tests, Medicare will cover them. However, you’ll pay your share of costs as we outlined above.
Medicare Part B will cover part of the costs for cardiovascular disease rehabilitation programs. These covered programs include exercise, education, and counselling designed to maintain your heart health.
Note: Medicare Part B will cover these cardiac rehabilitation programs, only if any of these scenarios apply to you:
Once again, you’ll pay your standard 20% coinsurance if you use these cardiac rehab programs under Medicare Part B.
Beyond standard cardiovascular disease screenings and rehabilitation programs, Medicare will cover medically necessary cardiac tests ordered by your doctors. These types of heart tests may include:
Just as with the other services, you’ll pay 20% cost-sharing under Part B of Original Medicare.
Most prescription drugs are not covered by Original Medicare. But you may be able to get heart and cardiovascular prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Part D plan.
The 2 types of Medicare plans that offer Part D:
It’s important to note that not all drugs are covered by all Medicare Part D drug plans. However, all Part D plans must cover at least two drugs in every therapeutic category, including heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
Tip: You can use our prescription lookup tool to see if your drugs are covered under Medicare Part D.
If you have more than one chronic condition, you can qualify for special disease management programs.
These are also covered by Original Medicare, but you’ll still be responsible for your standard cost sharing. You may also have to pay a monthly fee to participate in these chronic care management services.
Under these management programs, you’ll work with your healthcare professionals to craft a comprehensive health plan tailored to your heart condition. A chronic care management plan may include:
So far, we’ve reviewed your coverage and costs under Original Medicare. But if you choose a private plan option like Medicare Advantage or Medigap, these plans will cover your cardiovascular health as well.
If you enroll in a Medicare Supplement plan, your plan will pay part of the costs you’d normally pay out of pocket. If you enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you’ll likely pay small copayments - similar to what you’d pay under Original Medicare.
But with Medicare Advantage, you’ll have out-of-pocket spending protection, since these plans put a cap on your annual health spending.
Most Medicare Advantage plans and some Medigap plans also offer access to non-Medicare health and wellness benefits. These can include gym memberships, SilverSneakers or other health programs that can help you lower your risks of cardiovascular disease.
With lifestyle and healthy habits, you can control many of the factors that may lead to cardiovascular disease. And if you currently have heart disease, you can manage your condition with a healthy lifestyle and tests, specialists, and medications covered by Medicare.
To make the most of your private Medicare coverage (Part C or Part D):
And if you want help choosing a Medicare plan, you can work with a licensed insurance agent who can help you find Medicare plans and give you free Medicare quotes (with no obligation to enroll in a plan).
Just call 1-800-620-4519 to speak with one of our licensed insurance agents, or use our Medicare plan comparison tool to find Medicare plans in your area.
Note: This article is for general education purposes and does not replace the advice of a medical professional. Always seek the guidance of your physician or a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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