February is “Heart Month”
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Over 17 million deaths each year are caused by heart disease. Our elderly population is especially prone to cardiovascular complications.
Every February is designated as American Heart Month by the federal government to encourage individuals to learn about, prevent, and address heart problems. Since seniors are especially at risk, it is important that family and caregivers understand heart disease, and its symptoms.
There are many, many terms used to describe heart health problems. Cardiovascular disease is a general term used to broadly describe multiple conditions or issues that can impair the cardiovascular system.
Specific cardiac issues include, but are not limited to:
* Diabetes – blood sugar levels too high
* Hypertension — high blood pressure which can cause heart damage
* High Cholesterol – excessive fatty deposits in blood vessels
* Cardiomyopathy – heart muscles are diseased
* Arrhythmia – heart beats with an irregular or abnormal rhythm
* Valve Problems – one or more of the 4 heart valves may be misfunctioning
* Pericarditis – inflammation around the lining of the heart
* Stroke – lack of blood being supplied to the brain
* Heart Attack – heart muscles are damaged due to lack of oxygen
* Heart Failure – progressive, chronic. Can’t pump enough blood.
Many of these conditions are manageable, and can been treated either through changes in diet or lifestyle. Others may require more medical intervention. But left untreated, most of the above conditions can be fatal if not handled properly.
It is vital for elderly parents, seniors, family members, and caregivers to learn and understand the signs of heart problems. Emergency treatment should be sought for signs and symptoms of heart attack and/or stroke, such as:
* Chest pain or tightness
* Upper body pain in the jaw, neck, back or arms
* Difficulty breathing
* Excessive sweating
* Vomiting and/or nausea
* Dizziness or lightheadedness
* Facial drooping
* Slurred speech
* Heart palpitations
* Impaired vision