Knowing your heart can keep beat going

Members of The Villages Running Club make their way around Lake Sumter on a six mile run.

Strengthening the heart can propel older adults to a long, healthy life. February is American Heart Month, a time when residents are urged to pay attention to their cardiac care. “The Villages is a healthy population, but as we grow older, age becomes a more significant risk factor,” said Dr. Robert Herman, a cardiologist with The Villages Health. “Those older patients need to be more alert.” Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Community resources are available to help residents prevent and survive heart issues.


Having excellent genetics helps when avoiding disease, but many people don’t, said Herman. Herman advises his patients to consider lifestyle factors such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to better their chances. Herman also recommends regular cholesterol checks. “Many people who don’t have ideal genetics never develop coronary disease,” he said.


Symptoms of a heart attack can be subtle, especially in women. Seek medical attention if experiencing chest pressure, pain in other areas of the body, shortness of breath, fatigue or nausea. UF Health The Villages Hospital offers 24-hour interventional cardiology services. From November 2018 through November 2019, the emergency room treated 5,023 patients with heart events.


Heart attacks, heart failure or open-heart surgeries can knock patients down. But there’s hope ahead for many survivors. “It’s possible to recover from a cardiac event through education and exercise and modifying risk factors,” said Jamie Albritton, cardiac rehab supervisor at UF Health The Villages Hospital. Albritton oversees nurses who monitor patients’ physical and mental wellbeing during a cardio exercise program.


Peer support can help patients cope. “Heart disease is a very frightful thing,” said Holly Hollingsworth, who coordinates WomenHeart, a local support group. It meets at 3:30 p.m. on third Wednesdays in the Sharon L. Morse Medical Building, Room 520. Mended Hearts, open to men and women, meets at

10 a.m. on first Thursdays October through May in the same location.