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Heart Disease in Elderly People


HeartDisease in Elderly People

HeartDisease in Elderly People

Heartdisease is one of the most complex health conditions that affectpeople of all ages. According to Stewart (2016), this complicationimposes a very big burden in terms of morbidity, functional decline,mortality, disability and healthcare costs. This is exhibited in theway all cardiovascular diseases (CVD) often impact not only thehealth of the patients, but also the wellbeing of their immediatefamilies and the community at large. Numerous studies have shown thatpeople in advanced ages are more prone to developing CVD. As Duprez(2015) notes, this is partly because our human systems that directlysupport our bodies and minds usually undergo alterations as someonegrows older. Some of these alterations make us more prone todeveloping health complications.

Inthe cardiac system for instance, it has been scientifically proventhat aging causes thickening of the heart walls and stiffening andarteries. Ideally, this makes it extremely hard for the heart tofunction effectively as far as pumping of blood to the variousmuscles of the body is concerned. According to Burch (2014), theresulting effect of this is the increased chance of developingcardiovascular disease that might take different forms includingarrhythmias, coronary artery disease, stroke, high blood pressure andvalvular heart disease among others. In this paper, we are going toexplore the effects of heart disease on the body of people inadvanced age. A lot of focus will be put on the systems that areaffected by this disease, the diagnosis of the disease with aging andthe special nutrition related considerations that are there for oldpeople.

TheEffects of Heart Disease on the Various Physiological Systems

Asnoted above, heart disease or heart failure might take differentforms. In all of them however, the heart often fails to pump enoughoxygenate blood to the various muscles, body tissues and cells.Apparently, every body part requires oxygen to function properly.This oxygen is taken in through the lungs when we breathe. The mainduty of the heart therefore is to pump blood into the lungs to pickup this oxygen and then circulate it to every part of the body.According to Stewart (2016), when the heart fails on this criticalobjective, nearly every crucial physiological system in the humanbody is adversely affected.

Oneof the most critical systems worst hit by circulatory systemmalfunction is the brain. As Duprez (2015) notes, the most commonheart condition especially among elderly people is coronary arterydisease. This disease is associated with formation of plaque in thewalls of the arteries which hinders the free flow of blood. In severecases, the blood may be blocked completely thus depriving the brainof oxygen and other crucial nutrients. In such cases, a stroke mayoccur which might result into permanent brain damage. The heartitself might also suffer a similar fate. Apparently, Burch (2014)notes that a heart attack is likely to occur in elderly people whenthe same plaque blocks blood vessels in the heart. Sadly, most ofthese attacks are usually fatal and might lead to loss of life.

Anothercritical body organ affected by heart failure is the kidney. Kidneysare always responsible for cleaning our blood and removing waste,toxic substances as well as excess water. However, just like otherorgans, the too need oxygen to function properly. When this oxygenis not delivered in the right quantities as it is often the case whenone has blocked blood vessels, hypertension develops. Duprez (2015)defines this condition as a common disorder, whereby blood&nbsppressureremains abnormally high (a reading of 140/90 mm&nbspHg or greaterthan this). Elderly people with hypertension are at high risk oftheir kidneys failing completely.

Blockageof blood vessels in the arms and legs is equally worrying. A researchby Geriatricshighlights that depriving these limbs of oxygenated blood and outtakeof waste can lead to their immobility (Burch, 2014). In fact, in moresevere cases, this conditions causes ulceration, disability and/organgrene that eventually necessitates amputation. Lungs on the otherhand are affected in a way that they see the buildup of fluids withintheir chambers. This buildup that greatly hinders their functionalityis caused by the fact that the heart fails to pump the right amountof blood through the normal cycle.

HeartDisease, the Different Stage of Diagnosis and Patients’ Reactions

Thenews of having a heart disorder is always very heavy not only for thepatient but also for his or her immediate family. As noted earlier,most heart conditions are usually very critical. According toStewart, this is partly because not only are they life threatening,but also very expensive to manage and treat. Perhaps this explainswhy most people are often heartbroken at the news that they have oneof the numerous cardiovascular diseases. A research by Stewart (2016)highlights that the number one reaction in most new diagnoses isusually anxiety which trickles down to close friends and familymembers. Apparently, there have been a lot of myths regarding heartconditions to the extent that very few people believe that they canactually defeat these diseases. In most young people for instance,there is usually an emotional breakdown that results into somewhatloss of hope. Such patients are often weak inside and therefore,besides medical intervention, they will require a lot of psychosocialsupport in dealing with the conditions.

Thesituation is slightly different in a patient who has had thecondition for the last 25 years. According to a research byGeriatrics,despite being hit by anxiety and hopelessness during the early stagesof diagnosis, heart disease patients often grow in confidence as timepasses by (Burch, 2014). This is because the numerous myths aredisapproved and it becomes apparent to them that the diseases arejust as manageable as other health conditions. One of thecontributing factors to this change in perception has been theadvances in medical science which have demonstrated that bothyoungsters and elderly people with heart conditions are surviving athigher rates than ever before. The positive impact of this is thatbesides the heart failure itself, the quality of life of people whohave had it for 25 years is usually better than that of newdiagnoses. They are less anxious and are generally in a betterposition to mentally and emotionally support themselves.

TheDifferences between Older People with Well Controlled Heart Diseaseand People with Uncontrolled Heart Disease

Asdemonstrated by medical science today, most heart conditions can bemanaged effectively if they are diagnosed early enough and thepatient put on right medication and support. For older peoplehowever, this condition often needs a lot of personalized assistance.This is mainly because this population is generally fragile,delicate, feeble and more sensible to most drugs. In addition, theyare mentally and physically slow and will look confused most of thetime. Another major challenge they face is that they are experiencingsenescent changes in basically all they organ systems. According toDuprez, these changes are usually triggered by aging and will occurregardless of whether the heart normal or diseased (Duprez, 2015).

Allthe above factors disadvantage elderly people when it comes totreating heart diseases. However, being wary of their situation, theynow contribute immensely towards the effective management of theirconditions. Ideally, Stewart (2016) notes that there is a very bigdifference between older people with well controlled heart diseaseand people with uncontrolled heart conditions. Perhaps one of themost significant differences is that this population (the elderly) isvery wary of their condition and thus will refrain from activities orhabits that further compromise it. As noted above for instance, theyare very cooperative when it comes to helping manage the condition.This is exhibited in the way they have a positive attitude towardsthe directions offered by their doctors. For example, they willadhere to the right diet, do the right exercise and refrain from badhabits such as excessive drinking and smoking. In the end, they thinkpositively and thus live a better life regardless of the condition.

Thecase is slightly different for people who have uncontrolled heartdisease. Ideally, these individuals are less wary of theirconditions. As such, there are high chances that they will contributevery little towards their own recovery. For instance, it is quiteoften to find them indulging in dangerous habits like smoking andexcessive drinking that further compromise their health condition.More so, they are more prone to continue living a carefree lifestylewhere they do not watch what they eat. Ideally, these individualsthink less about their situation perhaps due to ignorance or justlack of care.

NutritionalConsiderations for Elderly Patients with Heart Conditions

Thefragile nature of elderly patients implies that physicians must takeinto consideration various factors when providing healthcare. Asnoted earlier for instance, this population is more sensitive tonearly everything including drugs and other medical procedures. Moreso, unlike a 35-year-old who can take in a few fats but still controlhis weight through vigorous exercise older people’s physicalcapabilities are very limited due to the effects of aging. As such,much of their remedy as far as managing their weight and heartcondition is concerned is in what they eat.

Burch’s(2014) research highly recommends foods that are high in fiber. Theseinclude vegetables, fruits, whole grains and omega 3 oils (such ascoldwater fish). Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are also a richsource of fiber. According to Duprez, these foods are very effectivein helping manage weight (Duprez, 2015). Sadly, one of the effects ofaging in most people is excessive weight gain which is a recipe forheart failure. Therefore, it is in their best interest to have asmany weight managing foods in their diet as possible. Anothercritical consideration is the limitation of saturated fat. Stewart(2016) notes that Trans fats from sources such as fried foods,commercial baked goods and most processed foods are bad for heartdisease patients because they clog arteries with cholesterol. This isbesides neutralizing the efforts made in weight management.


Burch,G.E. (2014). The special problems of heart disease in old people.Geriatrics,32(2),51-64.

Duprez,D. (2015). Early detection of cardiovascular disease – the future ofcardiology? E-Journalof Cardiology Practice, 4(19),26-35.

Stewart,K. (2016). Heart Failure: What Happens to the Body. Journalof Life Changing Medicine, 6(3),377-389.