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Heart Health Signs and Symptoms

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Heart Health Signs and Symptoms

InnovAge
March 09, 2022
Each year in the U.S., heart disease kills more older adults and women than any other disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women and cases are even higher in African American women.
This article was medically reviewed by Melissa Welch, M.D.

 
There are many health risks and chronic conditions
that may increase the risk for heart disease or heart failure. These include high blood pressure, diabetes,
and thyroid issues. “Those diseases can often be invisible to us, but they put a lot of stress and strain on the heart and that can lead to serious problems,” says Dr. Stephanie Arnold, medical director at InnovAge’s PACE center in Richmond, Virginia.
 
“Genetic, economic, and social issues can all be factors. It is important physicians develop trusting, healthy relationships with their patients,” she says. “A patient should feel all of their concerns are taken seriously by their physician. This can help make sure the treatment plan makes sense for the patient.”
 
What are the warning signs your heart may be at risk?
Be sure to monitor your overall health and look out for these symptoms:
  • Cough
  • Physical weakness and fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Swelling in your legs and feet
  • Weight gain
  • Tightening of clothes and shoes  
Dr. Arnold says people can significantly lower their risk of a heart attack by changing their diet, exercise, and their attitude. “I have plenty of people in their 70s and 80s who are far healthier than my 55-year-old patients, and it’s just because they decided that they were going to stay active and keep moving.” Her basic guidelines include:
  • Eat a diet with lots of vegetables and lean proteins
  • Take your medications regularly
  • Find ways to manage stress
  • 3-5 times a week: move your body enough to get your heart rate up and maybe sweat a little  
“Especially for seniors, what’s most important is that we are moving our bodies, getting our heart working, taking our medications, and eating a healthy diet,” says Dr. Arnold. “Heart health is not about quick fixes, or a number on a scale; it’s about the small things we do every day to keep us moving and feeling good.”
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