Unlike a heart attack, heart failure often develops over time because of the heart’s inability to sufficiently pump blood throughout the body. According to the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 75 percent of hospitalizations for this cardiovascular condition involve people 65 and older, which is why heart-related problems like this should be on your radar if you’re caring for an older loved one. Below you’ll find some of the common symptoms associated with heart failure in elderly people.
Shortness of Breath
Heart failure is sometimes referred to as congestive heart failure because of the buildup of fluid in the lungs that often occurs. This fluid accumulation can interfere with the process of oxygen getting into the blood, which can result in shortness of breath, especially when your loved one is physically active.
Recurring Coughing/Wheezing Episodes
The accumulation of fluid that’s common with heart failure sometimes contributes to fits of coughing or chronic wheezing. Such actions are attempts by the body to clear this fluid.
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It’s not unusual for older adults to tire out more easily. But a heart that’s no longer doing its job can create a constant state of fatigue that’s out of the ordinary.
Confusion or Disorientation
Disruptions in blood flow because of heart failure can reduce the circulation of blood to the brain. This is a symptom you may misinterpret if you see it in your loved one, since confusion tends to be more commonly associated with cognitive impairment.
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Swelling in the Feet and/or Ankles
Your loved one may notice his or her shoes are feeling tighter if he or she has heart failure. According to the American Heart Association, this can happen when blood returning to the heart backs up in veins in the feet and causes swelling (edema), which may extend to various parts of the legs.
Elevated Heart Rate
When the heart isn’t functioning as intended, your loved one may experience an increased heart rate. A related symptom is heart palpitations, which can be described as feeling as if the heart is throbbing or racing.
Unexplained Weight Gain
Fluid accumulation may also contribute to weight gain, which is more likely to be a sign of heart failure if there’s no clear reason for why your loved one is putting on extra weight. Heart failure is sometimes associated with a loss of appetite as well.
Other Symptoms to Look Out For
It’s often a combination of the above symptoms that suggests an older adult is experiencing heart failure. Even if it turns out not to be heart failure, finding out what’s causing any symptoms like the ones discussed here can provide much-appreciated peace of mind along with an added incentive for your loved one to be mindful of his or her cardiovascular health. Some other symptoms related to heart failure to watch for include:
- An increased need to urinate at night
- An inability to exercise or remain physically active without getting winded
- Chest pain (if heart failure is related to a heart attack)
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