Did you know heart failure is a leading cause of hospitalization among patients ages 65 and older?
“Diastolic heart failure is a disease of the elderly,” says Jane Lombard, MD, medical director of El Camino Hospital’s Heart Failure Program. “As we age, we get stiffer, and that includes the heart muscle. If you think of the heart like a balloon, it won’t stretch out to fill. If it doesn’t fill up with blood, it won’t pump it and it can back up into the lungs.” (Systolic heart failure occurs when the heart’s left ventricle no longer contracts normally, impacting pumping.)
The most common symptom is shortness of breath with exertion or when lying down. Swollen ankles mean the condition is more severe. The earlier you identify symptoms, the better, says Dr. Lombard, a Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctor. Prevention is even better, including controlling blood pressure, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of the El Camino Hospital Health Beat magazine.