The American Heart Association reports that the number of Americans with heart disease has increased to an estimated 16.3 million, more than half of whom are 65 or older. Older adults face many barriers to preventing, recognizing, diagnosing, treating and managing heart disease.
In October, 2013 the American Heart Association published an important Scientific Statement entitled, “Secondary Prevention of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in Older Adults: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.” This is one of many publications that highlight the importance of non-medical, psychosocial needs of older adults who are living with heart disease.
One important takeaway from our research is that many older adults are not offered cardiac rehabilitation due to age-related bias. The AHA Scientific Statement mentioned above clearly states that many older adults can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation.
About Cardiac Rehabilitation
Cardiac rehabilitation (cardiac rehab) programs:
- Are professionally supervised program to help people recover from heart attacks, heart surgery and heart procedures such as stenting and angioplasty.
- Provide education and counseling services to help heart patients:
- increase physical fitness.
- reduce cardiac symptoms.
- improve health and reduce the risk of future heart problems, including heart attack.
Advocate for Cardiac Rehabilitation
“Despite the clear benefits of Cardiac Rehab in older adults with ASCVD, the vast majority of older patients do not participate because of a variety of factors: lack of referral, patient-related factors, or societal and economic barriers. The cumulative effect of these factors is abysmally poor Cardiac Rehab use rates among older adults.”
“The prescription of exercise for increasing physical activity and fitness for older patients with ASCVD is an essential component of secondary prevention.”
-Excerpts from the “Secondary Prevention of Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease in Older Adults: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association”
Please advocate for cardiac rehabilitation for ALL older adults who can benefit from this important service. Ask your healthcare provider if you can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation.
To celebrate National Heart Awareness Month, we thought it would be helpful to share the most common non-medical barriers that impact health outcomes for older adults who are living with heart disease, and the solutions that help older adults to fight back.
Heart Disease in Older Adults – Key Non-medical Barriers
Based on a review of most recent findings from peer-review literature, social media and advocacy, the most common/impactful non-medical barriers for older adults with heart disease are:
- Emotional barriers
- Depression, anxiety and stress
- Educational barriers
- Digital divide
- Low vision/hearing
- Co-morbid dementia/cognitive deficits
- Psychosocial barriers
- Low income
- Low literacy
- Health disparity – low access to:
- Comprehensive care team
- Heart healthy foods
- Cardiac rehabilitation
Non-medical Solutions to Heart Disease in Older Adults
- Avoid smoking
- Form an expert care team
- Ask about Cardiac Rehabilitation
- Stick with your treatment plan
- Manage blood pressure
- Recognize and treat depression
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Get support
- Stay active*
- Read labels and eat healthy levels of: Mediterranean Diet Rules!*
- Get with the Guidelines
- Get involved…advocate
- Consider Non-medical Home Care
We hope that this blog offers information tools and resources that drive positive health outcomes for older adults with heart disease and their family/professional caregivers.
Do you have other tools or resources that we have not mentioned? If so, please use the comment box below to share any information that would help older adults who are living with heart disease. Thank you.