Do you think that you’d be able to tell if someone you love was having a heart attack? Heart attacks are common in the elderly. All caregivers the elderly should be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack in the elderly and be prepared to call for emergency help.
Heart attacks occur when one or more arteries becomes blocked with a build-up of cholesterol or other material, blocking the flow of blood to the heart.
Symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms of a heart attack can develop over time. Most people don’t have all the symptoms of a heart attack at once, and they may have different symptoms if they have a second heart attack.
The most important thing to do if you suspect that someone is having a heart attack is to call 911 right away. Getting the blood pumping again is the best chance to save a life.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of An Impending Heart Attack?
The most common sign of an elderly heart attack is sudden chest pain or discomfort, which lasts for more than a few minutes. Pain usually starts at the center of the left side of the chest, and it may go away for a time and then come back.
The pain feels uncomfortable like a heavy pressure on the chest. Some elderly people describe it as squeezing or fullness. Other people have reported that it feels much like indigestion or heartburn. The person may experience shortness of breath before the chest discomfort begins.
Signs of a heart attack may cause discomfort in the upper body. Poor blood flow can cause tingling in the arms, and pain in the neck or back, upper part of the stomach, or jaw.
As the arteries begin to clog, many people feel fatigued and have a noticeable decrease in energy. Other signs of a heart attack include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and sudden sweating.
What Are the Risk Factors for an Elderly Heart Attack?
An elderly heart attack is less likely to occur in seniors who participate in a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives. Some people have naturally high levels of certain chemicals in their bodies that pose a risk for an elderly heart attack. These chemicals include homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and fibrinogen. A history of family members with an elderly heart attack may pose a higher risk of heart attack than other seniors.
Elders can choose to reduce the likelihood of a heart attack by being aware of the following risk factors:
- Smoking, including second-hand smoke
- Inactive lifestyle
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight or obese
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes [i]
Even if elders have not taken the best care of themselves during their lives, it’s often not too late to begin making changes that can reduce the potential for a heart attack. Encourage seniors to start making just a few positive changes like starting a new exercise regime and cutting back on fat, sugar, and alcohol. Starting a healthier lifestyle can begin to reverse the effects of arterial clogging and can make a very big difference for heart health.
The Key to Reducing the Risk of an Elderly Heart Attack is Prevention
The heart is a muscle, and just like other muscles in your arms and legs, it needs exercise. Your heart gets a workout when you exercise and get your blood flowing through your veins. Seniors who have been sedentary will want to start slowly, perhaps by taking a short walk every day and trying to go a bit farther over time. Senior caregivers will enjoy getting out and walking with them.
It’s important for people of every age to eat a healthy diet with limited fats and sugars. Smoking is a large factor in causing heart attacks, so it’s an especially good idea for seniors to cut back on smoking or quit altogether. If they’ve been smoking for a long time, they’ll need some help to quit.
All of these changes will help to reduce the chances of an elderly heart attack.
Seeking Help at the First Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack
The cure for a heart attack is to get the blood flowing back to the heart. The sooner you call for emergency help when you notice the symptoms of a heart attack, the less damage there will be to the heart. The treating physician will administer medications to stabilize the senior and may need to perform emergency surgery.
In most cases, seniors will live through a heart attack if they get emergency help as soon as possible. Know the signs of a heart attack and don’t hesitate to call 911.