Updated February 2021
February is American Heart Month,
so now is a great time to talk to the older adults in your life about this serious issue – especially since those with heart disease are at higher risk of increased illness if they contract the COVID-19 virus.
“Because heart disease is the nation’s leading cause of death among older adults, it’s important to know the warning signs and options for treatment so that seniors and caregivers can protect themselves and their loved ones – especially during the pandemic,” says Dr. Luz Ramos
, InnovAge’s regional medical officer for its eastern region.
Here are a few questions and answers about common heart health issues.
What is the difference between heart disease and heart failure?
, also known as coronary heart disease, is caused by plaque in your arteries, which hardens blood vessels and can result in a heart attack.
, or congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart cannot pump enough blood to all parts of your body. The resulting fluid buildup can cause your heart to fail, meaning your heartbeat may become too fast, too slow, or unsteady.
What are the warning signs your heart may be at risk?
High blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid issues are some of the known health risks and chronic conditions that may lead to heart disease or heart failure. Be sure to monitor your overall health and look out for these symptoms:
What signs should I look for?
- Physical weakness and fatigue
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling in your legs and feet
- Weight gain
- Tightening of clothes and shoes
Call your doctor immediately if you have trouble breathing, or gain three pounds or more in three days.
How can I get treated for heart disease?
Schedule physical exams at least twice a year, review medications as needed, and consider blood work to monitor your condition.
For participants in the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
, your PACE care team
can help you manage your heart health and treat negative symptoms. Treatment may include:
How can those with existing heart disease protect themselves against COVID-19?
- Taking your medication as prescribed
- Daily exercise to lose weight
- Taking steps to decrease stress
- Consulting a dietitian to improve your diet and lower salt intake
Although everyone should be following the CDC’s direction
, it’s especially important for older adults and those with heart disease to:
- Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer
- Wear a mask (over nose and mouth; secured under chin)
- Keep your physical distance when in public
- Avoid gatherings with individuals who don’t live in your household
“Heart disease diagnosis is important now, more than ever,” says Dr. Ramos. “Be sure you’re vaccinated against both the flu
and COVID-19, as soon as the vaccine is available to you.”