Secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in elderly patients.

Am Fam Physician 2005 Jun;71(12):2289-96

Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, USA.

Coronary heart disease remains a leading cause of mortality in the United States, with 84 percent of persons 65 years or older dying from this disease. Secondary preventive measures, including lifestyle modification and pharmacotherapy, are important for elderly patients because of the variable impacts on morbidity and mortality rates and quality of life. Participating in light to moderate activities significantly decreases mortality rates in elderly patients. Smoking cessation translates into a reduction in overall mortality and morbidity rates at least equal to that of other preventive measures such as aspirin or beta-blocker therapy. Recent studies on the effects of lowering low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels to below 100 mg per dL have shown a substantial reduction in coronary heart disease mortality and nonfatal myocardial infarction rates, with a persistent effect in patients older than 75 years. Hypertension, manifesting mostly as isolated systolic blood pressure elevation, also should be treated aggressively. Conventional medical therapies for hypertension (e.g., diuretics, beta blockers) and newer agents (e.g., calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors), together with sodium restriction, have had a positive effect on cardiovascular mortality and morbidity rates in older patients. With the increasing prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, interventions targeting weight reduction and glucose control should be emphasized. Whereas weight-loss strategies are poorly defined in this population, the management of diabetes through dietary modification, exercise, and medications is similar across age groups. The target hemoglobin A1C level is less than 7 percent. Elderly patients are prone to depression and social isolation, and they are more likely to have a lower socioeconomic status than younger patients, which may negatively affect participation in rehabilitation programs and compliance with medical advice and therapy. Strategies aimed at these factors have shown variable results and remain ill-defined.

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June 2005

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