Many health experts agree that heart health should be a top priority of older adults during their golden years.
Aging brings about many consequences to the physical body, including changes in the heart and blood vessel structure and function. Thus, increasing the risks of seniors in developing mild to severe heart conditions like:
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Coronary heart disease
- Ischemic heart disease
In fact, the CDC reported that 21.7% of seniors aged 65 and above had been diagnosed with at least one of the diseases mentioned above.
Senior heart health is an essential aspect of your physical well-being that you need to take a closer look at. Early heart disease may not always have visible symptoms–most of them are barely noticeable.
There are usually minor inconveniences or uncomfortable feelings that signal the onset of heart disease. However, most seniors wave it off as something normal and non-threatening.
Not all heart problems demonstrate a clear warning sign, but some do. So, watch out and never ignore these seven indicators of an unhealthy heart.
1. Chest Aches and Discomfort
Pain, tightness, pressure, or discomfort in the chestal area is a classic sign of a heart problem.
Many people describe this feeling differently–a burning sensation or an elephant sitting on the chest feeling–but it points to a single conclusion: an unhealthy heart.
Chest pains occur for different reasons. It can be due to:
- A blocked blood flow because of a blood clot
- Low blood flow, causing plaque formation that constricts the arteries.
- Death of heart muscle cells
- Inflamed heart sac
This discomfort is usually characterized by a slow build-up of pain or tightening in the chest that lasts for a few minutes. It commonly happens while doing an exertive physical activity, but sometimes it can also arise when you are at rest.
Fatigue or a prolonged feeling of tiredness can be an indication of many illnesses. But not many people know that it is also a warning sign of impending heart disease.
An unhealthy heart experiences difficulty pumping enough blood and oxygen to the body’s tissues, causing you to be easily winded when doing simple activities.
If you notice yourself getting exhausted quickly (which never happened before) after a flight of stairs or an errand, then you need to visit your GP, get yourself checked, and take care of your senior heart health.
3. Irregular Heartbeat
Irregular heartbeat, also known as heart palpitations, happens typically as a result of too much caffeine, nervousness, or anxiety.
But when it happens out of nowhere and in frequent intervals, then the problem lies in your heart. There are several reasons why an unhealthy heart increases its heart rate. This includes:
- To compensate for its loss of pumping capacity.
- Changes in the heart muscles that causes scar tissues to develop
- Electrolyte imbalance
When you experience palpitations, it is crucial to note how it happened (were you resting or doing a strenuous activity), how it feels, and how long it lasted.
4. Persistent Cough
Typically, coughing or wheezing has something to do with your lungs or throat and not the heart. But if you experience persistent bouts of cough together with other warning signs mentioned in the article, then it is likely to be due to your failing heart.
Coughs that result in the spewing out of whitish or pink, sometimes blood-laced, mucus indicates that something is wrong with your heart.
This can be due to the build-up of fluids (sometimes blood) in the lungs because the heart cannot keep up with your body’s demands.
5. Swollen Lower Extremities
Swelling in your feet, ankles, and legs may indicate compromised senior heart health. Many diseases can cause the swelling of the extremities–kidney failure, liver problems–that’s why it is often overlooked as the sign of another illness instead of a heart problem.
Edema (swelling) in the lower part of your body occurs when the heart cannot pump blood properly, causing deoxygenated blood to pool in your tissues.
Heart problems can also cause the kidney to experience difficulties in removing extra water and salts in the body, thus retaining it in the tissues and causing the lower extremities to bloat.
6. Nausea and Dizziness or Lightheadedness
Feeling sick or feeling like you are about to faint can point to many mild health conditions. It can be just because of the food you ate or the lack of it, low blood, or standing up too fast.
Nausea and dizziness are general symptoms of many illnesses. Still, when you experience it more often paired with other symptoms mentioned above, then you should not rule out the possibility of a heart problem. These symptoms happen due to:
- Low blood pressure because of the heart’s pumping difficulties.
- The digestive system gets poor blood circulation.
- Not enough oxygen goes to your brain because of pumping problems.
7. Sleep Apnea or Snoring
Light snores when you sleep are normal, especially when you had a tiring and busy day. However, loud snores, together with a choking or gasping sound, might be an early sign of a heart problem.
Sleep apnea refers to a bout of loud snores accompanied by seconds of breathing pauses during sleep. It can also be experienced with chest pains, restlessness, and choking sounds.
Not all sleep apnea indicates weakened senior heart health, but it can cause or worsen one’s heart problem. Moreover, studies suggest that it causes hypertension and heart palpitations, which can exacerbate or trigger heart disease.
Prioritizing senior heart health allows you to lead a long, healthy, and fulfilling life. Small discomforts may mean nothing, but it should not be taken lightly, primarily if it occurred together with other telltale signs of a heart problem.
Protect your heart by eating healthy, exercising, and going to regular check-ups with your doctor. Even if you do not feel anything out of the ordinary, it is essential to do routine check-ups to monitor and know the state of your heart health.
Some frequent medical tests to check your heart’s health are:
- Blood tests
- Exercise stress test
- Nuclear stress test and
- Coronary angiogram