Help Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke in Seniors - Steps to Take

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posted by Ryan Whittington on February 02, 2011

I have previously blogged on Heart Disease and it's prevalence in the elderly.  As a Registered Nurse working in the private duty home health care field, I too often see seniors who suffer from the effects of heart attacks, strokes and other heart related conditions.

A large percentage of patients I see are limited to relatively few outings and rarely leave the house.  This is for many different reasons including a fear of falling, anxiety of the unknown and paranoia.  Physical limitations such as decreased mobility and overall lack of energy also exist in the elderly.

For these reasons and others, the elderly have limited to no regular interaction with physicians, health care professionals and dentists.  In this article I am going to focus on the importance of proper oral hygiene and how ignoring it can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Regular care for your teeth and gums (flossing and brushing) is important no matter what age you are.  Senior citizens with decreased abilities to care for themselves can experience unique limitations.  Upper body strength can limit a seniors abilities to accurately brush their teeth.  Arthritis and swollen fingers can make it next to impossible to floss between teeth.  

Without proper brushing and flossing, bacteria on your teeth and gums can detach and enter the blood stream.  The bacteria can attach to fatty plaques in your arteries, making the plaques become inflamed.  The danger is that if a plaque then bursts, it can cause a blood clot to form.  Blood clots can then lead to heart attack or stroke.  Hopefully you can see, proper brushing and flossing is paramount.

How do I know if my loved one is not taking care of their pearly whites?

If approaching the subject is somewhat scary or uncomfortable, look for these visual signs:

  • Bad Breath
  • Bleeding Gums
  • Dry Mouth
  • Complaining of Tooth Ache

To help overcome these limitations, families or seniors should consider asking for help with oral hygiene. Fortunately there are products on the market that can help such as electric toothbrushes and floss applicators that can reach to the back of the mouth.  If using these assistive devices has not solved the problem, you should consider having a family member assist or contacting an agency which can have a home health aide assist.

How do I help avoid oral hygiene problems?


Our Seniors Home Care nurses always recommend that our clients see a dentist at a minimum of once per year.  In the mean time, follow these recommendations.

Steps to good oral hygiene include:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice daily
  • Flossing your teeth daily
  • Replacing your toothbrush at least every three months
  • Getting regular dental checkups, as recommended by your dentist

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