Heart attack after 60: Warning signs and common causes of heart attack in older adults
Cardiologists say chances of heart attack can increase with age in people who are leading a sedentary lifestyle, overweight and highly stressed.
As we age, the chances of heart attack increase due to many changes in our body from hardening of arteries to slowing down of certain body processes. Healthy habits however can shield their heart and reduce chances of a cardiac event. As per a study, older people who took fewer than 2,000 steps a day were three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared with those who take 4,500 steps a day. When it comes to taking steps for protecting our heart, it's never too late. One can make appropriate changes in the lifestyle by eating healthy food, doing regular exercise, avoiding alcohol, smoking and also pollution. Also, controlling chronic conditions like cholesterol, BP, diabetes, excessive drinking of alcohol can avert heart attacks. The death of Bollywood veteran Satish Kaushik who was 67 has shocked one and all. We asked experts the signs and possible causes of heart attack after 60. (Also read: Heart health tips: Lifestyle changes to prevent heart attacks)
"I was very shocked to hear about the death of famous actor Satish Kaushik. I heard he was attending a Holi party and sometime in the midnight, he had uneasiness and was rushed to hospital and perhaps got serious on way to hospital. Heart attacks are part of ageing because of hardening of arteries called Atherosclerosis. This is deposition of cholesterol in our coronary arteries that supply blood to our heart and with age they tend to become harder. However, in certain individuals who are not leading healthy lifestyle (they are not active, not conscious about their weight and diet and stress control), and have the other conventional risk factors like smoking, tobacco, diabetes, hypertension, they succumb to it earlier than destined. After the age of 60, heart attack strikes in people who are not active and who do not do regular exercise because this build-up of cholesterol in our arteries is a slow process which starts perhaps in childhood if your habits are not healthy and as you grow up it starts to become severe. You may be lucky to have experienced an angina and seen a doctor, hospital in time and get it treated. When acute myocardial infarction patient is rushed to hospital there is a 20-25% chances of dying suddenly due to erratic rhythms of heart. It could happen in sleep at night, in ambulance or while going to the hospital," says Dr Subhash Chandra, Chairman Cardiology, BLK-Max Super Specialty Hospital.
Tell-tale signs of heart attack after 60
"The signs of heart attack are chest pain or chest discomfort, which can be squeezing pain heaviness as if a lot of weight has been put on the chest, shortness of breath, sweating, pain in jaw, neck back and shoulders, feeling of nausea, light-headedness or the patient is tired and it is unusual weakness which normally is not present. There are always symptoms which patient tries to ignore and that is the reason when we say that the heart attack had come without any warning symptoms. Usually, patient tries to underplay or avoid telling people about his symptoms and that leads to sudden collapse," says Dr Ajay Kaul – Chairman, Cardiac Sciences, Fortis Hospital, Noida.
The common signs of heart attack over 60 are pain in the chest radiating to shoulders or arms commonly dismissed as arm pain. Any heaviness or pain over the chest while walking, dizziness, light-headedness, discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back, in the upper abdomen, chest pain, unconsciousness, breathing difficulty, and sweating profusely are the symptoms that one should watch out for, says Dr Sharath.
Causes of sudden heart attack in people over 60
"A heart attack or myocardial infarction happens when a part of the heart muscle fails to get a sufficient amount of blood. Delaying treatment to restore blood flow will cause damage to the heart muscle. The causes can be stress, obesity, high blood sugar levels, a sedentary lifestyle, alcohol, smoking, drug abuse, exertion, and family history," says Dr Sharath Reddy Annam, Senior Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Director of TAVR & Structural Heart Disease, Medicover Hospitals
"Heart attack can come all of a sudden without any warning signal. Unexpected causes of rise in incidence of heart attack can be if you sleep for lesser than six hours in the night there are twice the chances of having a heart attack. Exposure to cold and if the patient is not well covered at an older age more than 60 years, they are more prone for these problems," says Dr Kaul.
Heart attacks are common when:
- Air pollution levels are high
- When a person eats large amount of food in one setting - It leads to higher level of stress hormones that can raise the blood pressure and trigger the heart attack,
- Anger, grief or stress are known to cause heart problems, but excessive joy also sometimes can lead to do problem
- Sudden intense exercise is also harmful
- Even in certain cases common cold, is a sign of inflammation which can damage your heart arteries and can lead to sudden heart attack
- Even asthma patients have to be careful they have and high incidence
How to prevent heart attacks after 60
"It is important to prevent heart attack and take measures which improve our lifestyle which includes eating healthy food. Regular exercise, weight control, quit, smoking and avoid pollution. It is also important to control cholesterol, BP and diabetes, excessive drinking of alcohol is also a major cause of heart problems. It is important to manage stress by doing regular yoga and other meditation," says Dr Kaul.
"To protect the heart, avoid smoking, alcohol, and overexertion, get your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checked, exercise daily, eat a well-balanced diet, sleep well, stay stress-free, and take medication as advised by the doctor," says Dr Sharath.