Age Related Health Challenges – Cardiac Number One

Cardiac Issues are the Number One Cause
By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, MSW

heart

Coronary Heart Disease is the most widespread condition affecting those 65 and older, followed by stroke, cancer, pneumonia and the flu. A 2012 survey of residents living in an assisted living community showed that 69% had a primary diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure). Depression and heart disease are projected to be the two major causes of disease by the year 2020. Heart conditions consist of the following:

  • Hypertension
  • Vascular disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery disease

High blood pressure can exist without any symptoms, which is why it’s referred to as the silent killer. The disease can secretly progress to the point where it’s only revealed through a stroke or a heart attack. For this reason, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure. Periodic blood pressure screenings are a great tool that we should use more frequently as we age.

Although uncomplicated hypertension may be present and remain unnoticed for many years, some people do experience symptoms such as:

  • Headache, Dizziness, shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision usually with blood pressure that is very high
  • Nausea
  • Visual symptoms

Along with hypertension, vascular disease is a threat to the aging body and puts the aging individual at risk for superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis happens when blood clots form in the large veins in our bodies. Part of a clot can break away from the large vein and travel to one of the major organs, such as the lungs, and cause a pulmonary embolism. This is a serious situation and can even result in death. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 10% of people who are diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) will die as a result of the condition.
Early detection and diagnosis can prevent death and support a better quality of life. Some of the symptoms of deep vein thrombosis begin with superficial thrombophlebitis, where blood clots in the superficial vein system occur when trauma has caused a small clot to form. Inflammation of the vein and surrounding skin causes the symptoms we’d see with any other type of inflammation, including:

  • Redness
  • Warmth
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling

Often, the affected vein can be palpated (felt) as a firm, thickened cord. There may be inflammation that follows the course of part of the vein.

“Know Your Numbers”
Take advantage of free blood pressure screenings conducted in your community. Drug store machines can be helpful, too. Whatever your age, take a proactive approach to heart health by knowing your numbers.

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