Study reveals old people are "missing out on basic heart care"


A report has claimed that potentially life-saving heart procedures are being denied to elderly people.

In the latest in a series of studies into the challenges of looking after the aged, Newcastle University found undiagnosed heart problems were affecting 25% of 87 to 89 year-olds.

The study, funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in the journal Heart, warned that unless urgent action is taken, the ageing population could make heart disease a more serious problem.

The study determined that medication can treat heart conditions and reduce hospital attendance, saving money for the health service. However, researchers said that while beta blockers and ACE inhibitors are useful, prescriptions would have to be carefully managed in order to avoid adverse side-effects.

The report also suggested that since breathlessness was a common affliction, people over the age of 85 could be offered scans at home.

Chief researcher Prof Bernard Keavney expressed surprise that so many elderly people are missing out on heart care. "Many could be treated with drugs that we know work, if their condition were recognised," said Prof Keavney. "This would improve their quality of life and it's likely to slow their progression to heart failure."

The British Heart Foundation also believes more could be done for the elderly. Dr Shannon Amoils said: "This study suggests that there are probably many more very elderly people in the community with heart problems than we previously supposed and many have symptoms like breathlessness that limit their daily activities."

According to the Department of Health (DoH), a strategy to improve identification and treatment of heart disease is in development.

Acknowledging that "more must be done" despite a 40% reduction in heart disease in the last 10 years, the DoH 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.

"NICE has recently published a quality standard on heart failure, which defines the best clinical practice for this service."

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