Your heart is roughly the size of a fist and sits in the middle of your chest, slightly to the left. It’s the muscle at the center of your circulation system, pumping blood around your body as your heart beats. This blood sends oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body, and carries away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products.
As you get older, your heart can’t beat as fast during exercise or under stress as it did when you were younger. However, your resting heart rate does not change significantly as you age. These changes in your heart can lead to heart attack, stroke, or heart disease, especially in people age 65 and older.
Signs of Heart Disease
Early heart disease often doesn’t have symptoms or the symptoms may be barely noticeable. That’s why regular checkups with your doctor are important. Even if you are healthy, you should have your blood pressure checked regularly. You may feel fine but, if not treated, high blood pressure could lead to stroke and problems with your heart, eyes, brain, and kidneys.
Contact your doctor right away if you feel any chest pain, pressure, or discomfort. However, chest pain is a less common sign of heart disease as it progresses, so be aware of other symptoms. Tell your doctor if you have:
- Pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back
- Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
- Chest pain during physical activity that gets better when you rest
- Cold sweats
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, and/or neck
- Reduced ability to exercise or be physically active
- Problems doing your normal activities
A major cause of heart disease is the buildup of fatty deposits in the walls of arteries over many years. The good news is there are things you can do to delay, lower, or possibly avoid or reverse your risk.
Talk with your doctor about the type of activities that would be best for you. If possible, aim to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Every day is best, but it doesn’t have to be done all at once—10-minute periods will do.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Smoking adds to the damage to artery walls. It’s never too late to get some benefit from quitting smoking. Quitting, even in later life, can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer over time.
Choose foods that are low in trans and saturated fats, added sugars, and salt. As we get older, we become more sensitive to salt, which can cause swelling in the legs and feet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods high in fiber, like those made from whole grains.
Balancing the calories you eat and drink with the calories burned by being physically active helps to maintain a healthy weight. Some ways you can maintain a healthy weight include limiting portion size and being physically active.
Keep your diabetes, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol under control. Follow your doctor’s advice to manage these conditions, and take medications as directed.
Don’t drink a lot of alcohol. Men should not have more than two drinks a day and women only one. One drink is equal to:
- One 12-ounce can or bottle of regular beer, ale, or wine cooler
- One 8- or 9-ounce can or bottle of malt liquor
- One 5-ounce glass of red or white wine
- One 1.5-ounce shot glass of distilled spirits like gin, rum, tequila, vodka, or whiskey
Learn how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems to improve physical and emotional health. Consider activities such as a stress management program, meditation, physical activity, and talking things out with friends or family.
Stop by Village Pharmacy to check your blood pressure, temperature, O2 saturation, respirations, and blood sugar. We can also answer any questions you may have about your medications to keep your heart healthy.