February is Heart Month and is recognized as a time to focus on heart health. In Alberta, British Columbia, and elsewhere, seniors are particularly encouraged to take this opportunity to focus on their heart health.
This includes taking steps to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke, such as controlling their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, getting regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking.
Additionally, seniors may need to have their medications, vaccinations, and other preventative measures reviewed. There are a variety of resources available to help seniors stay informed and proactive about their heart health, such as healthcare providers, support programs, local events, and online resources.
What do you need to know?
Heart failure is a chronic condition caused by the heart not functioning as it should or by a problem with its structure. It can happen if the heart is too weak or too stiff, or both.
The most common signs of Heart Failure can include (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2023a):
- Increased shortness of breath, especially when lying flat
- Sudden gain of more than 1.5 kg (3 pounds) over 1 to 2 days, or 2.5 kg (5 pounds) in a single week
- Bloating or feeling full all the time
- Cough or cold symptoms that last longer than a week
- Tiredness, loss of energy, or extreme tiredness
- Loss of or change in appetite
- Increased swelling of the ankles, feet, legs, sacrum (base of the spine), or abdomen (stomach area)
- Increased urination at night
Signs of a Heart Attack (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2023a):
What to do if you think you’re having a Heart Attack:
- Call 9-1-1; Emergency personnel can start treatment enroute to the hospital.
- Stop all activity; Sit or lie down in whatever position is most comfortable.
- Take your nitroglycerin; If you take nitroglycerin, take your normal dosage.
- Take ASA (Aspirin); Chew and swallow ASA (Aspirin) if you are not allergic or intolerant (either one 325 mg tablet or two 81 mg tablets).
- Rest and wait; Stay calm while waiting for help to arrive.
- Keep a list of your medications in your wallet and by phone; emergency personnel will want this information.
Heart Attacks in Women
The most common heart attack sign is chest pain or discomfort; however, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead, they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2023b.)
Heart and Stroke Foundation
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada offers information and support for seniors looking to improve their heart health. For more information, check out: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/
Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2023a). Recognizing early signs can help you live well with heart failure. Retrieved from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/recognizing-early-signs-can-help-you-live-well-with-heart-failure
Heart and Stroke Foundation. (2023b). Heart Attack Signs in Women. Retrieved from https://www.heartandstroke.ca/articles/heart-attack-signs-in-women-often-missed