Do you know how healthy your heart is? As people age it is important that they know about the health of their heart, Cardiovascular Disease is the biggest killer in the UK with 180,000 deaths recorded in 2010 and in the USA the figure is around 370,000. The biggest increase comes once people are over 75, in fact Cardiovascular Disease is the number killer for people over 45.
Research shows that heart problems within the elderly population are potentially being overlooked. One if four elderly people have an undiagnosed heart condition. This may be happening because individual’s aren’t receiving regular heart checkups.
As we age many changes occur within the body, this can have a particular impact on the heart. There are some normal changes that happen to the heart as part of the ageing process, but some problems may arise and in this case individual’s should always seek a doctor’s advice.
Ageing changes to the heart
There are many ways in which the heart changes as we age including: slower heart rate, increased size of the heart muscle, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), and muscle degeneration. The thickening of blood vessels also impacts heart health, as it can cause conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle). There are also changes that occur in the blood that can cause issues such as: a slower response to blood loss, anaemia, and an inability to resist infection.
Common heart problems
Common heart problems include: angina, arrhythmia, arteriosclerosis (hardening of arteries), congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, heart valve diseases, and anaemia. This conditions can occur at any time in an individual’s life, but the likelihood of these conditions occurring increases as individual age because the heart muscle weakens.
Effects of changes to the heart
Changes to the heart muscle during the ageing process can have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of individual’s. For example an older heart may not be able to pump blood as effectively as it used to, and this could lead to the individual needing medications or surgery in order to assist the heart.
What can be done to help?
There are a number of things that can be done to prevent or relieve heart conditions. For example eating a heart-healthy balanced diet. This reduces the amount of saturated fats and cholesterol levels within an individual’s diet, and this can help to control an individual’s weight, which in turn provides a number of benefits for the heart.
Regular exercise can also provide a number of benefits such as: preventing obesity, reducing stress, and in diabetics it can also help individual’s to control their blood sugar levels.
Having regular heart checkups is also important. During these checkups individual’s should have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Blood pressure should be checked at least once a year, and cholesterol at least once every five years. However if the individual suffers from conditions such as: diabetes, heart disease or kidney problems, these should be monitored more regularly. It is important to receive regular heart checkups particularly as you age because it makes it easier for doctors to notice changes to the heart’s condition. This is important because it allows problems to be treated effectively and efficiently. This can prove to be particularly important if an individual is diagnosed with a serious condition, as an early diagnosis may help an individual to maintain an active lifestyle for longer.
How home care can help
Care workers would be able to provide a wide variety of support such as: prompting medication taking. This can be particularly useful for those suffering heart conditions, as they may have difficulty remembering to take medications, especially when they have to be taken at certain times.
Other ways in which care workers may be able to assist is through encouraging exercise, by encouraging them to partake in physical activities or assisting them in going out for a walk on a regular basis.
They could also help to prepare meals that follow a balanced diet. This can be extremely beneficial, as this can help individual’s to stay active, and it could it turn prevent deterioration and obesity, as well as helping to maintain independence for as long as possible.