Heart Disease

Heart disease is a subject that those of us who are fortunate enough to have become seniors should be aware.  Many of us reading this should be grateful.  Not everyone has the opportunity to qualify.

Our hearts are strong muscles that pump blood through our bodies.  A normal, healthy heart is about the size of our clenched fist.  We’ve known for most of our lives that the purpose of the heart is to keep the blood cirulating though our body.  If the heart stops pumping, we die.  Very simple, really.

It seems prudent, therefore, that we learn about our heart and what we can do to keep it in good condition so we can maximize our health and longevity.

The heart is subject to events that, while they fall short of bringing the heart to a total stop, do impact it’s ability to function at an optimum level of efficiency.  These events may directly affect our quality of life and the duration of our life.

Some of these potential events we can influence, others, such as heredity and age, we cannot.  Our parents contributed their genes and we are what they gave us.  Our age is what it is and may increase for a length of time determined by our health and life’s events.   Our decisions can heavily influence our health, and we hope to encourage that here.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is not something any of us want.  This is  when fatty deposits or plaque build up in the coronary arteries over a time of years and affect the health of the heart.  The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart, and the buildup of plaque narrows the flow of blood to the heart and thus reduces the supply of oxygen the heart needs to remain healthy.

This may cause chest pain or discomfort (angina) or a heart attack.  When the heart muscle does not receive enough blood nutrients and oxygen, the cells in the heart muscle will die (heart attack) and the heart becomes weaker.  This reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood through the body

Symptoms of Heart Disease

Early symptoms of heart disease may or may not even be noticeable.  This reality is what makes regular checkup for seniors very important.  If you feel any chest pain, pressure, or discomfort, contacting your doctor immediately would be very prudent.  As heart disease progresses, be aware of other symptoms such as:

  • Numbness, pain, and or tingling in the shoulders, neck, arms, back or jaw.
  • Shortness of breath after being active, while resting or lying flat.
  • If you have chest pain while you are physically active that improves when you rest.
  • Dizziness.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Confusion.
  • Cold sweats.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea/Vomiting.
  • Continued tiredness.
  • Swelling in your ankles, legs, feet, stomach, and/or neck.
  • Reduced ability to be physically active.
  • Problems doing your regular activities.

Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia (when your heart beats irregularly) is much more common in older adults than in younger people.  If you feel your heart is fluttering, skipping a beat, or beating too hard, or feel weaker, or feel short of breath, contact your doctor right away.

There are several decisions you can make to reduct your chances of contracting heart disease:

Possible Solutions

  • Be more physically active.
  • If you smoke, quit.  Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death.
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.  The most obvious approach is to becoma a vegetarian.
  • Keep your weight at a healthy level.
  • Keep up to date with your medications for high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol.  Carefully manage these conditions.
  • Restrict or eliminate your consumption of alcohol.
  • Carefully manage your stress.

Whatever the state of our heart’s health today, we can maintain and even improve it by the good choices we make going forward.  Please note the below references for more information about your heart health.

American Heart Association

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases  (NIDDK)

MedlinePlus

Smokefree60+

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