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Coronary Care: Is There a Cure for Coronary Heart Disease in the Elderly?

Coronary heart disease can be treated to help manage symptoms and to reduce the potential of further problems for your loved one. Management may involve lifestyle changes, medication and sometimes surgery to help reduce symptoms and improve the heart’s function and their quality of life.

What is coronary heart disease?

Coronary heart disease or CHD, symptoms include chest pain (angina), heart palpitations and occasional breathlessness. Diagnosis of CHD can occur without your loved one displaying any signs at all. If your loved one is diagnosed with CHD, management of the condition is possible with live-in care, in a residential care home, or they can remain independent in their own home.

The term coronary heart disease is used to describe an interruption or blockage that affects the blood supply to the heart. Blockages happen when there is a fatty build-up inside a person’s coronary arteries. Artery walls can become ‘furred’ with fatty deposits or atheroma as a result of a process called atherosclerosis. Other conditions that can affect CHD are health ailments such as diabetes and hypertension, or by smoking and having high cholesterol levels.

Diagnosing coronary heart disease

If your elderly loved one’s doctor feels that they are at risk of CHD or coronary heart disease, they may decide that a risk assessment is required. This vital element of elderly care and overall coronary care should consider the patient’s lifestyle, their family and medical history, and a blood test as well.

Other tests may also be required to confirm your loved one’s diagnosis of CHD such as a treadmill test, a CT scan or an MRI scan.

Colin and Dulcie’s story

Dulcie is 102-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for over two years.

We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.

Certain risk factors may make your loved one more likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Obesity
  • Low levels of physical inactive
  • A family history involving heart disease
  • Age: older people are more likely to develop CHD than younger people

The more of these risk factors that your loved one has, the more likely they may be to develop coronary heart disease. Anyone aged between 40 and 74 living in England is entitled to a free health check on the NHS to assess their risk of developing CHD, this may be something that you and your loved one may want to consider.

Treatment of coronary heart disease

Unfortunately, there is no cure for coronary heart disease. However, if your loved one is diagnosed with CHD, there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can reduce the associated risks and help to manage symptoms. Your loved one may be prescribed medicines for CHD, and they may need support in making healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise or giving up smoking.

In some cases, your loved one may need angioplasty, where stents and balloons treat narrowed arteries, or perhaps other surgery to reduce the risk of a heart attack. In many cases, with the right coronary care, help and support, your loved one can continue living a healthy life.

How to prevent coronary heart disease

Simple lifestyle changes can reduce your loved one’s chances of getting coronary heart disease. These include controlling sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels, being physically active, giving up smoking and eating a healthy and balanced diet.

Thinking about heart health as part of a home care plan can also have other far-reaching benefits such as reducing the risk of stroke and the need for dementia care in the future.

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