Up to 26 percent of all people in their 80s have hidden, but treatable heart problems, a new study of British seniors has found.
The findings, by a team of researchers at Newcastle University, suggest many older people are missing out on simple heart treatments that can prolong and improve their quality of life.
"We were surprised to discover just how many older people have heart problems,” said Bernard Keavney, a Newcastle cardiologist who led the study, published in the journal Heart. “Many of these people could be treated with drugs that we know work, if their condition were recognized.”SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
For the study, researchers performed echocardiograms – heart scans – on 376 people aged 87 to 89 years old in their homes, and found more than 1 in 4 had undiagnosed cardiovascular problems.
The most common condition was impairment of left ventricular systolic function, in which people's hearts do not contract strongly enough, which can leave them breathless and lead to heart failure. The condition is treatable with beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors.
"Our research suggests that it might be practical to offer people over 85 who are breathless, an echocardiogram at home which would reveal these problems,” said Keavney. “Because this heart problem occurs so often at this age, home checks are likely to be cost-effective, whereas they wouldn't be in younger people.”