World Heart Day: Cardiovascular Disease and the Elderly

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, are the world’s leading cause of death. More than 18 million people worldwide each year. The World Heart Federation seeks to raise awareness of CVD deaths on September 29th by sponsoring World Heart Day, when seniors should take stock of their heart health and see what they can do to stay heart healthy. As with many conditions, the most effective prevention and control of CVD is through a healthy diet, exercise, and regular routine medical care. Seniors who live at home and need some extra help; may benefit from having an in-home care aide who can help you live a healthier lifestyle.

The Types of Cardiovascular Disease

It is generally agreed that there are four main types of CVD. They are:

  • Coronary Heart Disease occurs when the blood supply of your heart muscle is blocked, slowed or interrupted. This generally causes chest pain. This can lead to a heart attack.
  • Stroke and TIA. Most people think of a stroke as something that happens to the brain, which is true, but a stroke (or a Transient Ischemic Attack, commonly known as a “mini-stroke”) is an event in which the blood flow to the brain is disrupted. It can lead to brain damage or death. As with heart attack, the sooner treatment is sought, the better the chance at recovery.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease is also known as Peripheral Vascular Disease. It causes pain, usually in the legs. Because of a blockage in the arteries that interrupts the blood flow to your limbs.
  • Aortic disease. The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. It carries blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. When the aorta is damaged, as in an aortic aneurysm where the wall of the aorta is weakened and bulges, causing pain in the abdomen or chest.

Both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization add other types of conditions to this list, including congestive heart failure, a chronic condition where the heart can’t keep up with its workload, and rheumatic heart disease, caused by damage to the heart valves. However, the four main types of CVD make up the large majority of cases.

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease (Spoiler Alert: Smoking is one of them)

While it’s important to be cognizant of all of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease; it’s valuable to recognize that not all of them are within our control. For example, the first three risk factors that the Mayo Clinic lists are:

  • Risk increases as we get older. Nothing we can do about that.
  • Men are generally at greater risk, but women (see below) have different risks. Again, nothing to be done here.
  • Family History. Did your father or brother develop heart disease before age 55? Did a sister or your mother develop heart disease before 65? Important to know, but impossible to change.

Focusing on the things that we can control can help us reduce the risks such as aging; that we don’t have control over. Specifically, those risks include:

  • Smoking (told you so). It’s a significant risk, because the damage smoking does to your lungs means there won’t be enough oxygen in your blood.
  • While being overweight is not a specific risk in and of itself, it makes other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 Diabetes much worse.
  • High stress. It’s not just in your head. Stress can actually do damage to your arteries, and may worsen other risk factors like high blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity and unhealthy diet. Eating right and exercising are the answer to preventing many, if not most, physical and mental health conditions. Cardiovascular disease is no exception to that. Keeping active and eating well may be the most important things you can do.

Heart Disease and Elderly Women

While heart disease affects both men and women, given the differences in how it presents in women and historical biases in the healthcare system, heart attack and heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the US. When the public talks about a heart attack, the depictions of it generally show someone grabbing their chest and falling to the ground. In fact, the early warning symptoms, especially in women, can be quite different. For many women, the first symptoms are nausea, vomiting and fatigue, which can lead many women to think that they just have a stomach flu. It’s important to take the possibility of heart disease seriously, especially if you have the risk factors mentioned above.

Getting Help Can Help

Having an at-home caregiver is a great way for seniors who live at home to make the lifestyle changes needed to keep CVD away. Whether it’s medication reminders  to help you remember when to take your blood pressure medication, or meal planning to ensure fresh, healthy meals area available, an in-home care aide can provide valuable care. Even having someone come in to do light housekeeping for a few hours per week can make sure you’ve got the energy to get some heart-healthy exercise.  Caregivers can help out with a variety of tasks that can help you stay healthy.

Home Care Powered by AUAF Is Keeping Seniors Heart Healthy

The dedicated caregivers and staff at Home Care Powered by AUAF want to see you live this World Heart Day and many more to come in a healthy and happy way. Find out more about how an in-home caregiver can help you or your elderly loved ones. And if you’ve got an elderly loved one for whom you want to become a paid caregiver, we can help arrange that as well. Give us a call at (773) 274-9262 or contact us to find out more.

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