HomeHealthOlder Aussies urged to screen for heart condition

Older Aussies urged to screen for heart condition

Health experts are calling for greater awareness of, and increased screening for, a heart condition that is most prevalent in people aged 65 and over.

Severe aortic stenosis affects around 100,000 older Australians and causes an estimated 10,000 preventable deaths each year.

A report from the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA) and the National Echo Database Australia (NEDA) is calling on older Australian to make regular heart screenings a part of their health routine.

Researchers combined echocardiogram test result data from NEDA with national death statistics and found a strong correlation.

Read: What your heart rate means

“It’s a much bigger problem than we’ve ever understood,” says Professor Geoff Strange, lead author of the report and founder of NEDA.

“That should be ringing alarm bells in the medical community. Aortic stenosis is far more deadly than we previously understood, and more deadly than many common cancers such as colon, breast and prostate cancer.”

The condition involves an abnormal narrowing and hardening of the aortic valve, an important valve that allows blood to flow from the bottom left chamber of the heart into the aorta.

Read: Can a glass of wine a day protect your heart?

If the valve has narrowed enough, it can restrict blood flow to the rest of the body. This in turn can cause breathing difficulties as the heart struggles to transport oxygen around the body.

Aortic stenosis can be life-threatening if left untreated. Early detection and treatment greatly increases your chances of survival. In fact, if left untreated for more than five years, the condition has a greater than 50 per cent mortality rate.

Unfortunately, the condition often presents with no symptoms, or very few symptoms until the narrowing has become more pronounced (by which time it may be too late).

Read: Water can reduce your risk of heart failure

Typical symptoms include breathlessness, breathing problems worsened by physical activity, coughing at night when lying down in bed, fainting, heart palpitations, pains in the chest (angina), fatigue and vision problems.

Many of these symptoms appear with other conditions and some are just a normal part of ageing, so may not be immediately associated with aortic stenosis. This is why regular heart checks are so important, even when you are not experiencing any symptoms.

Treatment for aortic stenosis depends on the severity of the case. Methods range from simple monitoring for asymptomatic or mild cases through to a full replacement of the aortic valve in severe cases.

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Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyerhttps://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/bradlockyer/
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.
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