Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) among Senior Citizens
Difference Between a Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest and Stroke
According to WHO, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the major cause of death worldwide, estimated to take (32%) 17.9 million lives every year. CVDs are a class of illnesses that affect the heart and blood vessels. 85% of all CVDs deaths occur due to strokes and heart attacks.
Senior citizens are mainly susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. Seniors age 65 and older are more likely to suffer a stroke, heart attack, heart failure and other heart complications. Ageing is a significant factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in senior citizens, but this is complicated by other aspects like increased blood pressure (hypertension), high blood cholesterol, high blood glucose or sugar and obesity.
To avoid critical conditions among senior citizens it is necessary to detect Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) well in time so that counselling and medications can start as early as possible.
Is there a difference between a heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke, or are they the same?
A heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke are medical emergencies that need quick attention but there's always confusion among senior citizens as they don’t completely understand the differences between these three. A heart attack and cardiac arrest are illnesses that involve the heart, and on the other hand, a stroke consists of the brain. When the blood flow to the heart is stopped, it leads to a heart attack. It is a cardiac arrest when the heart unexpectedly stops beating. A stroke occurs due to an interrupted or reduced blood supply to the parts of your brain.
In this article, let's understand the differences between the three severe conditions: a heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke.
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when the blood circulation to a senior’s heart is critically decreased or stopped. In a heart attack, an artery gets blocked and cannot carry sufficient blood and oxygen to the heart. In this situation, the heart may continue to beat normally, but the blocked artery quickly needs to be reopened, or the parts of the cardiac muscles begin to die due to the lack of blood and oxygen. The longer a person goes untreated for a heart attack the greater will be the damage. Symptoms of a heart attack can start gradually and can last for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack.
The most common symptoms of a Heart Attack are:
Pain or uncomfortable pressure in the chest
Discomfort or pain in arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, back or stomach
Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, or cold sweat
Shortness of breath
What is a Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest is a serious condition that happens unexpectedly or often without warning. Cardiac arrest can be caused by an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Ventricular fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia associated with cardiac arrest. Ventricular fibrillation is caused when the heart’s lower chambers abruptly begin beating chaotically and don’t deliver blood to the essential organs. Also, cardiac arrest is a short loss of heart function causing sudden/unexpected beating of the heart, due to the insufficiency of blood and oxygen supply to the brain, lungs and other organs.
Cardiac arrest is always more serious than a heart attack. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is given, or AED (automated external defibrillator) is used to bring the heart back to normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.
Unlike a heart attack, a cardiac arrest doesn't arrive with clearly described symptoms, it occurs with little or without warning.
Symptoms of cardiac arrest are prompt and threatening like lack of breathing, no pulse, sudden loss of consciousness or responsiveness. In a cardiac arrest, when the heart stops beating, death can happen within minutes if CPR is not performed or an AED is not used immediately.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke is a brain attack that can occur with little warning when blood circulation to the brain is stopped/reduced by a burst blood vessel or clogged. During a stroke, when blood flow to the senior’s brain is interrupted, brain cells begin to die due to being deprived of oxygen and nutrients. Immediate treatment is required for stroke to minimize brain damage and potential complications like loss of life, memory or muscle control.
There are three main types of stroke:
Ischemic Stroke causes when a vessel providing blood to the brain is choked or clots due to fatty deposits lining the vessel walls known as atherosclerosis.
Hemorrhagic Stroke occurs when weakened blood vessels called aneurysms and arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) break and bleed. The other common reason for this stroke is high blood pressure.
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is a mini-stroke or temporary blockage of blood supply to the brain due to a temporary lump.
Symptoms of a Stroke
You might save someone’s life from a stroke by learning and sharing the acronym FAST warning signs.
Face - When a person's face starts to droop or is numbed, ask the person to smile. If the smile is uneven, the person may be going through a stroke.
Arm - If the person’s arm is weak or numb, ask the person to raise both arms. Observe if one arm drifts downward.
Speech - If the person's speech is strange or slurred, ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check if the person can speak or is it difficult to understand.
Time - If the person shows any of these symptoms, take the person to the hospital instantly.
Additional signs of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) seniors should be alert about are as follows:
The abruptness of breath when at rest, while lying flat or when you are active
Pain in the chest while doing physical activity that gets better if you rest
Fatigue or tiredness
Swelling in the neck, stomach, legs, ankles or feet
Decreased capability to be physically active or do exercise
Difficulties in smoothly doing your everyday activities
A heart attack, cardiac arrest, and stroke are life-threatening emergency conditions. If you or someone is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, rush to the hospital immediately.
Following are the steps senior citizens can take to keep their hearts healthy:
Be physically active
Have a healthy diet
Maintain your weight
Keep your high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol in control
Manage your stress
Note: As senior citizens, it's essential for you to get your blood pressure checked on a regular basis, even if you feel you are healthy. This is because as you get older there are changes in your arteries that can eventually lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). To control your high blood pressure you need to exercise, include necessary dietary changes, and reduce salt consumption. Medication is often required as changes in the arteries are a common cause of high blood pressure due to ageing which is also one of the main causes of Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) among senior citizens.