Heart disease is so common that it’s the cause of one out of every four deaths in the United States – and that’s regardless of age. It is true, however, that the probability of complications by heart disease increase as we age.
We can and must do more to prevent heart attacks and strokes in seniors, and it starts with a preventative approach. It’s not an easy approach because neither our caregivers nor the seniors they look after are cardiologists. Even so, there are some best practices.
Would you invest about $80 to find out if your heart’s arteries are getting blocked? That’s the average cost of a coronary artery calcium scan (CACS). Without this preventative scan, you may have no warning about blockage – and it’s a leading cause of fatalities.
The CACS scan is widely available, uses no dye, takes only about a minute, and is more accurate than a stress test.
Seniors Should Skip the Urgent Care Clinics
Older adults experiencing chest pain, pressure, or tightness and squeezing sensation should be taken directly to an emergency room, and not an urgent care clinic. This does not mean the care available at urgent care clinics are lower in quality – but these organizations are less likely to do more than a basic evaluation.
Someone who goes to an emergency room will undergo a thorough evaluation that’ll include multiple cardiac enzyme and ECG tests, as well as a definitive test before discharge. These “before and after” tests ensure that additional medical care and follow-ups are done.
Ask About These Advanced Lab Tests
If they’re covered by medical insurance, these advanced tests can help answer many questions raised by a cardiac episode in seniors.
- Advanced Lipid Profile: This advanced test measures LDL particle number and size, which are more predictive of future heart and stroke events.
- Homocysteine: This substance found in our bodies is important for artery and brain health. If levels are elevated, it can be treated to return them to normal.
- Lipoprotein A: It’s rarely used, but hundreds of research studies indicate that if it’s high, the risk of heart attack and stroke dramatically increase.
- TMAO: A new marker of heart and kidney health that’s been shown to cause heart and kidney damage and is associated with worsened prognosis
There’s much to be said for taking an “as long as we’re here” approach to medical attention. The more you know about potential cardiac problems, that more you can help to find treatment and solutions.