Ask A Geriatrician- by Dr. Susan Nelson

Ask a Geriatrician- by Dr. Susan Nelson

I know that February is National Heart Awareness Month, so how does cardiovascular illness affect older adults?

Great question! In fact, the leading cause of death in men and women over the age of 65 is heart disease while stroke is in 4th place. The important thing is to be screened and treated for cardiovascular risk factors and to recognize the warning signs of heart attack and stroke.

The risk factors for heart disease and stroke are similar. They include advancing age (we can’t turn back the clock!), being a man (women catch up by age 72), high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Please talk to your doctor or other health care professionals about what you can do to decrease your risk!

The early warning signs of a heart attack (Signs of a Heart Attack)  are:

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  1. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  2. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

The early warning signs of stroke use the acronym FAST.

Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Slurred Speech and Time to call 911. Other symptoms include sudden numbness, confusion, trouble seeing, trouble walking or severe headache. (AHA Stroke Symptoms).

The American Heart Association has a great fact sheet about older Americans and cardiovascular disease which can be found here. There is a lot of great statistical information showing how different cardiovascular conditions affect older adults in general, and differences between men and women.

Be kind to your heart!