Angina Pectoris and Coronary Artery Disease in the Elderly II


By David Crumrine

Risk Factors for Heart Conditions in Senior Citizens

Senior citizens are usually more at risk for various heart conditions. The following are some risk factors that have been shown to correlate with CAD or other heart conditions that result in symptoms like angina:

  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • metabolic syndrome
  • lack of physical activity
  • family history of heart disease

Although a higher rate of heart attacks occur in men, both male and female senior citizens suffer from stable and unstable forms of angina, which makes it a priority in care for the elderly.

Angina Symptoms

Some people have trouble isolating discomfort that results from angina although complaints are usually associated with feelings of pressure or tightness that originate in the chest behind the breastbone and lasts for about five minutes at a time. Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), fatigue (tiredness), shortness of breath, sweating, light-headedness, or weakness also may occur. Senior citizens have also reported pains in the shoulders, neck, jaw, and arms although women are more likely to feel this pain in the back and abdomen. While this general discomfort is most typical of stable angina, other less common forms like unstable and variant angina are usually associated with longer episodes (as long as 30 minutes) of more severe discomfort. Unstable angina which is due to blood clotting may worsen as time progresses and eventually lead to an actual heart attack.

An important part of eldercare is monitoring any types of chest pain that seem severe, and those caring for the elderly are advised to seek medical attention immediately if this type of discomfort lasts for more than a few minutes.

Prevention and Treatment of Angina

Senior citizens and those involved in their elder care can address CAD or other heart problems with a two-fold effort aimed at prevention and treatment. Depending on the severity of the condition, in home care for senior citizens will generally incorporate both alleviation of pain from current heart disease and activities that will decrease risk to heart attack or other complications. When symptoms of CAD are so severe that more traditional forms of treatment like medication are not useful, cardiac rehabilitation may be required.

Preventing Episodes of Angina

Some preventative tips to reduce discomfort and heightened susceptibility to heart attack can include taking breaks when the onset of angina-like symptoms are felt, avoiding large meals or specific heavy foods that tend to trigger episodes of pressure or tightening in the chest, and learning techniques to avoid and/or deal with stressful situations.

Healthier living will also lower the risk for heart disease. Healthier living encompasses a wide variety of activities that focus on a healthy diet, healthy amounts of physical activity, taking medications prescribed by medical professionals, and also avoiding unhealthy activities like smoking. While all of these recommendations are shown to decrease risk of heart disease, they could also decrease complications from related problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

Heart healthy eating involves focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean meats and fish.

Although these techniques have been shown to aid in the treatment and prevention of heart disease, everyone has their own unique set of symptoms and heart related health concerns.

It is important for senior citizens to not only follow the recommendations mentioned above but monitor their own patterns of symptoms and work with those involved in their elder care and doctors in developing a lifestyle that is optimal for treatment and prevention of heart disease.

Treatment of Angina

Senior citizens and those involved in their elder care are encouraged to become familiar with the types of foods, activities, and daily stresses that typically lead to an onset of CAD symptoms. Many senior citizens take medications for angina and other associated symptoms of CAD, so it is also important to be aware of what each medication does as well as possible side effects that can result from long-term usage.

Avoiding strenuous physical activity or partaking in low-level activity with breaks, avoiding emotionally stressful situations, avoiding large or heavy meals, or simply being aware of your own limits can be very helpful in preventing further heart-related complications or making heart disease symptoms less severe in day to day life.

While preventative techniques are important for avoiding heart attack, it is also important to have an emergency action plan for episodes of severe symptoms that could indicate a need for immediate medical attention. Senior citizens and or any family members and friends involved in their elder care should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heart attack, the appropriate use of aspirin and nitroglycerin when needed, how to access emergency medical services, and the location of the nearest hospitals.

The Caring Space

David Crumrine at the Caring Space
We are an organization that connects caregivers and care seekers, providing an easy and affordable resource for families seeking care for friends/loved ones and caregivers seeking employment.

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