What you might not know about seniors and heart attacks

February 11, 2022

When we think of heart attack symptoms it's easy to remember the “Hollywood heart attack,” where a person stops in their tracks and suddenly clutches their chest because of an overwhelming pain.

But it might surprise you to learn that this is rarely what a heart attack looks like for older adults.

Instead of severe chest pain, shortness of breath and nausea, many seniors show no signs or symptoms, or signs that might seem unrelated to what we expect. 

Reasons for this include age-related changes in the body and brain, and the presence of other chronic conditions or illness  interactions of chronic conditions with acute illnesses and under-reporting of symptoms.

Signs of a heart attack in an older adult might include mild or no chest pain, confusion, weakness or dizziness. In many cases, new confusion (delirium) may be the first sign. 

Because the signs of a heart attack are different for seniors, delirium is just as much a medical emergency as chest pain.  

Take a minute to learn about delirium and how to recognize and respond to it

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