What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the result of the narrowing of the coronary arteries that lead to the heart, which disrupts the heart's electrical system and pumping functions. According to the American Heart Association, the most common forms of heart disease are heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and heart failure.
Who's at Risk?
Everyone's risk for heart disease increases with age. Your aging parents or loved ones have a higher risk of having heart disease if they smoke, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol; are overweight, physically inactive and/or have a family history of heart disease.
Watch for These Symptoms
Shortness of breath, persistent coughing or wheezing, an increased heart rate, and fatigue are all signs of heart disease.
If heart disease is suspected, the doctor may conduct some of these tests:
- Chest X-ray
- Heart MRI
- Stress Test
- Coronary angiogram
- Electrophysiology test
- CT heart scan
- Myocardial biopsy
Treatments Include medications, procedures, and/or surgeries
Heart Disease Can Lead to a Heart Attack
Heart attack symptoms include:
- Chest Discomfort
- Pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
- Shortness of breath (often accompanied by chest discomfort)
- Cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness
Contrary to popular belief, heart attack symptoms often start slowly and build. It's important to act fast. If your parent or loved one shows even the slightest symptom of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. There are drugs available that can stop the attack and prevent sudden sudden cardiac arrest, but to be most effective, they should be administered in the first hour.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart unexpectedly stops beating, and it requires immediate treatment with a defibrillator. Call 9-1-1- immediately. CPR should be administered until help arrives.
The Road to Recovery
If your aging parent or loved one has suffered from a heart attack or other form of heart disease, they may be dealing with some of these issues:
- Fatigue, shortness of breath
- Depression or the blues
- Sleep problems
- Leg swelling
- Temporary decline in cognitive abilities
Treat them gently, but encourage some movement and activity throughout the day. Invite visitors over to cheer them up or play a board game, if they're up to it. Notify the doctor if any of these conditions persist.