Short of Breath? It Could Be a Heart Issue

Drop in activity as you age could be a heart or other health issue

There is a myth out there that continues to tell us that as we age, our activity level will dramatically decline. This is simply not true, says Leslie Cho, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center.

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“The fitter you are, the better you will feel as you age,” says Dr. Cho. “Current level of fitness is really the best predictor of how we will feel in the future. This is true for both women and men.”

Gauge activity levels

She cautions that you should not ignore a sudden decrease in your activity level as you age. For example, if you used to be able to walk three blocks without being tired, and within a few weeks or months, you start to feel out of breath after only a couple of blocks, something could be wrong. Or, if you feel your activity level significantly declines from one season to another, it is time to talk to your doctor.

“If you begin noticing a significant decline in your functional capacity, you should see your primary care doctor,” she says. “That is the best place to start as there could be many causes, from your thyroid to a low red blood cell count to your heart.”

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Sometimes, she says, it can be an indicator of worsening heart disease – from a valve problem, to coronary artery disease to an arrhythmia. If so, your doctor can refer you to a cardiologist. If you are already a heart patient, you will definitely want to see your cardiologist if you are experiencing shortness of breath upon exertion. It is important to be examined by your cardiologist to find out what is wrong and to receive treatment.

Keep active

And Dr. Cho reminds her patients that it is never too late to start being more active. “You can be 65, 75 or even 85 and start an exercise routine,” she says. Studies show that older adults and the elderly benefit their heart health and their mental health by being active and staying physically fit.

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