Keeping a Healthy Heart as We Age

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Cardiac disease is the leading cause of death both in men and women. About 11% of the US population aged 45 and older have coronary heart disease. Here we’ll discuss basic pathology, symptoms, risk factors, and preventive measures to save ourselves from cardiac issues at a later age.

Basic Pathology and Symptoms

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs due to the deposition of cholesterol, lipids, fibrin, and other substances in the form of atherosclerotic plaque. These plaques can obstruct the coronary arteries occluding the blood flow to cardiac muscles, leading to myocardial infarction (“heart attack”).

We may remain asymptomatic if the occlusion is small. However, if it leads to a heart attack, we may have chest discomfort or chest pain, dyspnea (shortness of breath), lightheadedness, weakness, pain or discomfort in the shoulder, and nausea.

Risk Factors for CAD

Unfortunately, about 47% of the US population has at least one of the three key risk factors for cardiac diseases, i.e.,

  • Hypertension
  • Hypercholesterolemia (Increased cholesterol levels)
  • Smoking

Other risk factors for heart diseases in the elderly include but are not limited to

  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Obesity
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Positive family history
  • High-fat diet

Preventive Measures for Heart Disease in the Elderly

Certain measures can prevent or slow down the progression of coronary artery disease in the elderly. Some of the important measures include,

Regular physical activity

Regular exercise and physical activity strengthen our heart muscles (myocardium), reduce stress hormones, and keep our blood pressure low. These factors can help us prevent cardiac issues.

Healthy eating patterns

A balanced diet, low in fat and sugar, can lower our cholesterol and lipid levels. Moreover, a healthy diet can also prevent weight gain producing long-term positive effects on the heart.

Here you can read healthy eating patterns for the elderly.

Regular check-ups

In our old age, we should have routine heart check-ups as these can help us understand our risk of developing coronary artery disease.

According to the American Heart Association, we should have blood pressure monitoring at least once every 2 years and blood cholesterol levels at least once every 4 to 6 years since the age of 20.

Quit smoking

As mentioned above, smoking is one of the key factors for heart disease. Smoking can make our arteries hard and help form atherosclerotic plaques.

Thus, it is essential to quit smoking as early as possible to prevent our coronary arteries from narrowing and plaque formation.

Preserve mental health

Stress, depression, and other mental health issues are more prevalent in the elderly. Poor mental health has a close association with cardiac disease. Thus, we should try to preserve our mental health in old age.

Take-Home:

Cardiac disease is the leading cause of death in the elderly. Most cardiac issues arise due to the occlusion of coronary arteries by plaque formation. Smoking, high lipid levels, hypertension, and other risk factors make us more prone to this condition. However, we can take some preventive measures that can lower the risk for cardiac issues in old age, such as regular physical activity, a balanced diet, regular check-ups, stress reduction, etc.

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/coronary-heart-disease-brief.html#:~:text=14.2%25%20of%20adults%20aged%2045,aged%2065%20years%20and%20older

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-disease/heart-health-screenings

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