It is a small muscular organ weighing hardly 300 grams, yet it decides the life and death of an individual. Yes, the human heart is one of Nature’s wonders, beating 72 times per minute and pumping 4.5 litres of blood daily. The functioning of this biological pump diminishes with age, leading to several senior cardiovascular diseases.
As part of the World Heart day activities on September 28, it is necessary to create awareness of the senior cardiovascular diseases and the ways to treat elderly heart conditions . Let us take a look.
Why do elderly heart conditions develop with age?
Aging has a debilitating effect on the heart. With age, the elasticity of the heart decreases thereby increasing the resistance to pumping of blood. Added to this is the inability of the heart to respond quickly to changes in arterial pressure. All these factors may be caused due to the thickening of the arterial walls, thereby increasing the blood pressure and load on the heart. This atrophy due to the increased load on the heart increases the mass of the heart and leads to formation of scar tissues. This in turn may impair the smooth beating of the heart. Apart from this, fibrosis due to calcium deposition may also occur in the heart. All these factors are a result of the reduced metabolism due to ageing and they cause senior cardiovascular diseases.
Types of senior cardiovascular diseases
- Angina Pectoris
A stabbing pain in the left chest or a tightness in the chest is often categorized as Angina Pectoris. This elderly heart condition is a result of physical or emotional stress which develops with age.
If the Angina pectoris develops without pain, it is called “silent ischemia” and this is most common in the elderly.
- Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) or Heart attack
Heart attack and the symptoms leading to it are categorized under Acute Coronary Syndrome. 85% of the people who die due to ACS are over 65 years of age. In the elderly, an ACS may go unnoticed unless the patient and doctor are aware of its symptoms like sudden shortness of breath and fatigue, profuse sweating, irregular heartbeat, discomfort in the abdomen and even fainting. If these symptoms of a heart attack are known, with immediate attention, many lives can be saved.
- Heart failure
Heart failure is an elderly heart condition that occurs due to the failure of the heart to function and pump blood. This may be due to an injury or even due to age. Prior heart attack, increased load on the heart, impaired heart relaxation due to diastolic dysfunction are the reasons for heart failure. In fact, nearly 50% of the elderly end up with heart failure due to diastolic dysfunction due to age.
Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats are most common in the elderly. Their symptoms are felt not in the chest but as sudden sweating, pallor, weakness, dizziness or fainting.
Of the arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation is most frequent with age and but is not serious. Ventricular arrhythmias are the most dangerous leading to sudden death.
Preventing elderly heart conditions
As a part of World Heart day activities, senior cardiologists recommend the following preventive measures to reduce the risk of senior cardiovascular diseases.
- Avoid smoking and drinking
- Exercise daily
- Follow a healthy and balanced diet
- Maintain the correct body weight required for your age
- Control blood pressure by relaxation, diet and exercises
- Regulate blood sugar levels by strict diet control
- Undertake regular cardiac check-ups to rule out the risk of senior cardiovascular diseases.
- Enlist professional home care for heart patients to prevent sudden emergencies.
- Be watchful about age-related cardiac symptoms like sudden shortness of breath, fatigue , chest pain or discomfort.
Nearly one-third of the global deaths or at least 17 million people die due to cardiac diseases and most of them are the elderly. Let us all join hands to prevent senior cardiovascular diseases by creating awareness on 29 September- World Heart day.