17.3 million deaths each year are caused by heart disease. Seniors are especially prone to cardiovascular complications. Learn about heart health to protect against this threat.
In 1964, more than half of American deaths were the result of cardiovascular disease. Although this percentage has decreased, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States.
Every February is designated as American Heart Month by the federal government to encourage individuals to learn about, prevent, and address heart problems. Since seniors are especially at risk, it is important that caregivers understand heart disease. (The American Heart Association)
There are a wide variety of heart health problems. Cardiovascular disease is a term used to broadly describe the plethora of problems that can impair the cardiovascular system.
Specific cardiac issues include, but are not limited to:
• Diabetes • Hypertension
• High Cholesterol
• Valve Problems
• Heart Attack
• Heart Failure
While some of these conditions are manageable, others can be fatal if they are not handled properly. It is vital for seniors and caregivers to learn the signs of heart problems.
Emergency treatment should be sought for signs of heart attack and/or stroke, such as:
• Chest pain or tightness
• Upper body pain in the jaw, neck, back or arms
• Difficulty breathing
• Vomiting and/or nausea
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Facial drooping
• Slurred speech
• Heart palpitations
• Impaired vision Signs
Many heart conditions can be managed with regular treatment or lifestyle changes. These conditions often present with mild symptoms. Seniors should schedule an appointment with their primary physician or cardiologist if they experience symptoms of heart disease like:
• Fluttering in the chest
• Fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat
• High or low blood pressure
• Ongoing fatigue
• Dizziness, fainting, or near fainting
• Difficulty breathing after exercise
• Lower body swelling
Treatment for heart disease varies according to the specific illness. Some treatments are as simple as dieting. Others may require medication. In general, caring for an individual with heart problems will require lifestyle changes.
Caregivers can help seniors protect their hearts by:
• Reducing sources of stress
• Providing a heart-healthy diet
• Encouraging rest and taking physical activity slowly
• Creating low level exercise regimens
• Offering medication reminders
• Watching for signs of change in heart and health