We hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day! But that holiday is not the only time to think about your heart in February. American Heart Month is observed each February as a time for all people to focus on their cardiovascular health. Here at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law, we want all of our clients to understand the importance of keeping your heart health a priority…and making a plan in case your heart ever fails.

The importance of knowing your heart health

Why is it important to think about your heart health? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for everyone. Every year, more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease – that’s 1 in every 4 deaths.

While it’s the leading cause of death, there are many ways you can work to prevent heart disease.

Who is at risk for heart disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, White (Non-Hispanic) Men are most likely to suffer from a heart attack (24.9%), followed closely by Black (Non-Hispanic) Men (23.9%).

Some of the risk factors of heart disease include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Signs of a heart attack

Did you know someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds? Although you could take all of the steps to avoid heart disease, the older you get the higher the chance of having a heart attack (men age 45 and older, and women age 55 and older). It’s very important to understand the signs of a heart attack so you can seek medical attention right away.

Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
    • Most heart attacks involve discomfort in your center or left side of your chest and it lasts for a few minutes or more. The discomfort can go away and then come back, with feelings such as pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
    • This could also mean breaking out into a cold sweat.
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the body
    • You could experience pain in the jaw, neck, back, arms, and/or shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath
    • Having trouble with breathing often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can also happen before experiencing discomfort in your chest.

While it’s important to understand signs of heart disease and heart attacks, it’s also important to consider advance care planning. At any age, it’s important to plan to make sure you are able to receive the care you want – especially if you are unable to speak for yourself and doctors and family members are left to make health care decisions for you.

Understanding advance directives

An advance directive is a legal document that tells your doctor and family what kind of medical care you want to have if you cannot tell them yourself. Even if you are not sick right now, it is still important to plan so you can make sure you are receiving the medical care you want. There are many different kinds of advance directives, including:


A DNR – or a do-not-resuscitate order – instructs health care providers not to perform CPR if a patient’s breathing stops or if the patient’s heart stops beating. Procedures used to resuscitate someone include chest compressions, intubation, cardioversion, and IV medications.

Although done in order to save the patient’s life, there are many significant physical injuries to consider, due to being compressed hard. Those who are resuscitated may experience broken ribs, punctured lungs, and a damaged heart. Because of the lack of blood flow to the brain followed by abnormal cell activity when blood flow is restored, patients also may risk brain damage.

People who are chronically ill often request a DNR as a way to leave the world on their terms. If you have a DNR order in place, you still have the right to change your mind and request CPR.

Your doctor can fill out a form for your DNR order. They can write it in your medical record if you’re in the hospital and they can help you get a wallet card, bracelet, or other DNR document to have with you at all times.

Living will

A living will is a written, legal document that describes the treatments you would want if you were terminally ill or permanently unconscious. A living will won’t allow you to choose someone to make decisions for you.

Durable power of attorney for health care

If you want to choose someone to make these important health care decisions for you, it’s vital to get a durable power of attorney for health care. This document becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions. You do not want to choose this document if you do not have someone in your life that you trust to make these important decisions for you.

There is a lot to consider when planning for your future health decisions. Applegate & Dillman Elder Law is here to help you. Contact us by phone or email today to discuss how our team can help you make the best decisions for you when it comes to planning for your future.  We heart you!