Health Tips for Seniors

Archive for June, 2006

Diseases of the heart

Heart difficulties are not all serious and are often interpreted in terms of noticeable heart action, breathing difficulty, chest pain or swelling of the ankles.

Heart Murmurs. Heart valves which open and close imperfectly may give rise to a sound similar to the whistling of wind

Fig. 53. The heart valve normally closes perfectly, but a diseased valve cannot close correctly. An imperfectly closing valve is the cause of heart murmur, heard during heart beat. The tricuspid valve has three lips, the bicuspid two lips.

rushing through a partially closed doorway. When valves open widely and blood flows freely, there is no sound, but when heart valves are deformed or do not close completely, onrushing blood creates a “murmur.”

There are different types of murmurs in the heart, some have serious significance, while others are of little importance. If a heart murmur is known to exist, explanation and expert guidance from an experienced physician in this field becomes advisable.

Heartbeat Irregularity. The regular heartbeat is similar to the


Fig. 54. Sinus arrythmia is a slowing of the heart rate when breathing out and a quickening of the rate when breathing in. It is caused by the rate of blood return to the heart as it is influenced by expansion and contraction of the heart.

steady rhythm of marching feet and anything disturbing this steady beat is called an irregularity. Irregularities are very common, some are important and some are not.

Sinus Arrhythmia (Breathing Irregularity). This is the most common heartbeat irregularity. It means a heart rate increase as we breathe in, and a decrease as we breathe out. It is found to some degree in everybody, and is not thought of as a disease.

Extrasystole (Extra Fast Heartbeat). This is a single heartbeat out of step, and often feels like a flip-flopping within the chest. In this irregularity, one heartbeat arrives ahead of step and is followed by a slight pause, awaiting the next beat back in regular step. The heart then goes on beating regularly until another extrasystole appears in the heartbeat order.


Fig. 55. Extrasystoli is irregularity of the heart beat. It is due to an occasional beat stepping in ahead of schedule, creating an apparent pause before the next regular beat. A common irregularity, it is not necessarily serious.

They frequently follow heavy eating, smoking, exercise or other excitement, and often are noticed when lying down in bed. Heavy tension and over-indulgence in tobacco are suspected as the chief causes of this irregularity. While an occasional extrasystole is usually not serious, the experienced physician’s opinion on this matter will help to discover any possibly serious underlying difficulties.

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Examining the Heart for problems

Examination of the Heart

1. Sit motionless and determine if the heart action is noticeable. Normally, it cannot be felt and sensations within the chest usually described as flip flopping are regarded as palpitations. They are often caused by extrasystole or heart
block irregularity.

2. Press the right palm just below the left breast and lean forward against a solid wall, and the normal heart beat can be felt. Heart beat sensations of a sawing nature (thrill) are definitely abnormal and may represent mechanical difficulties which produce murmurs.

3. Count the pulse rate (same as heart rate) at the wrist, normally, sixty to eighty beats per minute. A resting pulse rate above 100 may represent tachycardia. An irregular beat, unlike the steady beat of marching feet, is a heart beat irregularity.

4. Press one finger firmly against the leg just above the ankle. Quickly withdraw the finger and a deep dent left in the leg which lasts for a minute, may indicate the inadequate circulation of partial heart failure.


Fig. 52. The blood pump of the body is nearly in the center of the chest and is larger than imagined. Weighing less than a pound, it lies on its side, looking little like the typical “valentine” heart. It pumps 10 tons of blood daily and beats over a million times every 10 days. The heart works hard enough each day to lift you 1000 feet straight up in the air; it is expected nowadays to keep working for 70 years “plus.” The heart must receive enough of the blood it pumps or it “cries out” with pain. The heart or coronary arteries return to the heart from the aorta, the main blood vessel from the heart. Chest pain, shortness of breath and palpitation (feeling the heart bounce) are signals of heart trouble. Diseases of the heart annually account for half the deaths in the U.S.

5. Inhale and exhale rapidly several times and finally hold a deep breath. If the breath can easily be held for a full minute, serious heart disease is improbable.

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