Coronary Heart Disease in Seniors

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when the heart muscle (myocardium) does not receive as much oxygen as it needs for normal operation. The disease develops when a larger or smaller branch of the coronary artery (these are the vessels feeding the myocardium) suddenly becomes narrower than normal. If the lumen of the coronary artery decreases gradually (for example, an atherosclerotic plaque grows in it), or the vessels contract only periodically, without delivering blood to the myocardium, it may lead to angina. Why do older people get sick more often?

Coronary heart disease is the most common disease in the elderly. In this age group, the disorder can be more serious than the one in the younger population, and in eight out of ten people over 65, angina turns into myocardial infarction. This is mainly because the Myocardial cells (cardiomyocytes) are gradually replaced by connective (not working) tissue. This leads to the expansion of the ventricles and atria, which leads to heart failure. The level of potassium decreases, while the concentration of calcium and sodium increases. However, instead of normal cells, connective tissue appears, the impulse is not able to pass or is forced to “jump” from one cardiomyocyte to another.

Who is at risk for CHD?

  • Smokers.
  • People who’re obese or overweight.
  • Those who enjoy fatty foods.
  • People with endocrine disease, especially diabetes.

Symptoms

A typical symptom of chronic coronary heart disease is the pain in the heart that occurs after:

  • weight lifting;
  • climbing stairs;
  • brisk walking;
  • eating heavy food, especially if it is fatty;
  • walking against the wind, especially when it is cold.

These symptoms are often manifested in the morning, due to the peculiarity of the nervous regulation of cardiac activity. Therefore, if your parent is over 60 years old, you should not allow them to drive the car or do any physical activity in the morning when it’s too cold. Unfortunately, senior citizens often suffer from atypical symptoms of chronic coronary artery disease such as:

  • a feeling of fullness, heaviness, burning or squeezing behind the sternum;
  • dyspnea;
  • pain in the lower jaw;
  • increasing arrhythmia;
  • dizziness;
  • pain or heaviness in the stomach;
  • severe weakness, especially in the legs;
  • heartburn.

About Medigap: Elderly who are above 65 can check out Medicare supplement plans as an add-on coverage option.