Many older people could have undetected heart conditions

New evidence has emerged in the last few weeks that show the older generation could be missing out on very basic healthcare that could help to prolong their lifespan.

A study that has been published in the journal ‘Heart’ was conducted by researchers at Newcastle University. The researchers underwent various medical tests on 300 elderly people aged between 87 and 89 years of age. After examinations were complete it was discovered that staggeringly, roughly a quarter of these people had a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

The authors behind the study say that if there was medication more accessible to older people, then money would be saved that is currently being spent by the NHS for costly hospital trips. They have further advised routine heart scans for anybody over the age of 85 who is complaining of breathlessness, which could be a sign of heart trouble.

The problem could escalate with the number of elderly people expected to increase. The Department of Health say that although a 40% decrease in cardiovascular disease has been seen in the last 10 years, more could be done. A spokesperson said, “We are currently developing a cardiovascular disease strategy which will consider how we better identify and treat heart diseases for people of all ages, including older people.”

However lead researcher Prof Bernard Keavney says, “We were surprised to discover just how many older people have heart problems. Many of these people could be treated with drugs that we know work, if their condition were recognised. This would improve their quality of life and it’s likely to slow their progression to heart failure.”

This study comes less than two weeks after scientists claim that older people could benefit from statins, with statistics showing that prescribing rates begin to drop for those over the age of 75.

Indeed, like their counterparts at Newcastle, researchers from both Oxford and Birmingham Universities claim that older people are being somewhat overlooked in regards to healthcare, and should be given cholesterol-lowering statins such as Crestor and Lipitor to help cut their risk of cardiovascular disease. The study authors from the two Universities published their findings in the British Medical Journal.

They analysed almost 37,000 subjects who were aged 40 and above, with no cardiovascular disease at the beginning of their study. They found for every extra 5 years of age, the chance of them being prescribed blood pressure medication increased up until age 85, when it then started to decrease. In comparison, statin prescription rates fell from just age 75.

When commenting on these findings, the authors said there is no evidence that statins are harmful for older patients and that the guidelines for the prescribing of the drugs need to be reviewed. They have also stated there should now be a ‘simple trial of use of statins in people over the age of 80’. Backing up those comments was the British Heart Foundation’s senior cardiac nurse June Davison, who says, “Available evidence would suggest that older people can benefit from heart protective drugs, but more research is needed.”

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