Although it is important for everyone to have some heart attack awareness, it is very important that seniors in particular know the signs of a heart attack. In addition, those who provide home care need to know what to look for. When providing senior care, it is important that healthcare providers understand why seniors are vulnerable to heart attacks.
Why Do Seniors Experience Heart Attacks?
Heart attacks are a part of heart disease that is more likely to affect seniors.
This is due to a few age related factors:
The heart starts to lose pumping power
- Accumulation of plaque within arteries
- Activity becomes more difficult which weakens the heart
- By the time a person reaches the age of 80, the heart’s resting capacity has been cut in half.
It is also important to know who is most at risk of a heart attack and when:
- The risk for men increases around age 45
- The risk for women increases around age 55
- The average first heart attack for men occurs around age 66
- The average first heart attack for women occurs around age 70
How Does a Heart Attack Occur?
It is also important to know how a heart attack happens, in addition to recognizing the signs.
The attack starts when the cardiac arteries are not getting enough oxygen. When the supply of oxygen becomes unsteady even for a moment, the heart tissue can become damaged or die. The heartbeat can become irregular or one can experience complete cardiac arrest, which is not the same as a heart attack but is sometimes caused by the attack. When the arteries become constricted with plaque or cholesterol buildup, a fibrous cap can cover the plaque so that it does not rupture and block the artery. If the pressure becomes too great, the plaque ruptures and causes the cells to die.
Physical Signs a Senior May Exhibit Before or During a Heart Attack
The most common image one may have when picturing a heart attack victim is a person clutching his or her chest while falling to the floor. However, a heart attack usually does not progress this way. A person experiencing a heart attack may first feel some discomfort in the chest that feels like fullness, heaviness, pain or pressure. This sensation can last for a while then go away, but it can also return.
There can also be pain in the upper part of the body including the:
Victims who feel shortness of breath may or may not feel any of this pain, but they could experience other signs like dizziness, nausea or sudden cold sweats.
Someone providing senior care should also know that men and women can experience symptoms differently. For instance, women are more likely to feel the discomfort or pain in the chest as well as the lesser known symptoms including shortness of breath, back and jaw pain and nausea.
“Heart Month” Educates On Handling a Senior’s Heart Attack
With February as Heart Month in Canada, it is a good time to work on awareness skills when it comes to recognizing a heart attack and giving the proper help.
The caregiver should not wait more than five minutes to call 911 if a senior experiences chest discomfort, especially if it is accompanied by any of the other symptoms. Trained professionals can revive someone whose heart has stopped and give proper treatment upon arrival at the hospital.
For More Information
WebMD is a website that offers lots of useful information about the heart, as well as a wide variety of medical issues, that can help caregivers. Visit this page of WebMD to learn more about heart disease.
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