Heart Failure Before Age 65: How Does it Happen?
Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization for people over age 65. But there are factors that put younger men and women at risk. Learn more about risks and prevention.
As you get older, you are more likely to have heart failure — it’s the leading cause of hospitalization for people over age 65. But men and women under 65 also are at risk for developing heart failure. Why does that happen in younger people? And how can you prevent it?
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It’s important to know that, despite its name, “heart failure” does not mean your heart has failed or stopped working. The term describes a medical condition in which the heart is not pumping enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen.
There are a number of factors that may make heart failure more likely, despite your age.
Whether you think you have some risk factors or just want to stay as healthy as possible as you age, here are key steps you can take toward prevention, Dr. Joyce says.
Know your family history — Having two or more relatives who die of heart disease increases your risk, Dr. Joyce says. People who have heart failure symptoms and a family history of heart muscle disease or two or more relatives dying suddenly without explanation should consider genetic testing, she recommends.
Get an annual physical exam — An annual checkup is critical because sometimes the symptoms of heart failure, such as fatigue, are easily overlooked, particularly in active younger people, Dr. Joyce says.
“Other symptoms of heart failure include shortness of breath with activity, leg swelling and abdominal bloating or swelling,” Dr. Joyce says.
During your yearly visit, your doctor will review your history, blood tests, vital signs and EKG results to check the health of your heart and other organs. You doctor may order an echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart if heart failure is suspected.
Monitor and modify your lifestyle risk factors — Track your BMI, or body mass index, rather than relying on a scale, Dr. Joyce says. BMI is a formula to measure height and weight. Using this formula, BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is ideal, 25 to 29.9 is overweight and above 30 is obese.
Watch your alcohol intake, too, Dr. Joyce says. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.