Baby boomers and heart disease: Effects of aging on heart health

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Heart Health | Tuesday, September 13, 2016 - 01:30 PM

bbay boomers and heart disease effects of aging on heart healthAging baby boomers need to be concerned about their heart health and heart disease risk. The likelihood of developing a cardiovascular condition increases with age, so it’s important that seniors take the necessary steps in order to reduce their risk.

Your body undergoes many changes with aging. For example, blood vessels also age, becoming weaker, stiffer, and less flexible, which prevents a healthy blood flow. Add to this high blood pressure, cholesterol, and other ailments affecting the heart, and you will see how all this extra stress can really be detrimental for the workings of your heart.

Years of insufficient physical activity really catch up to an older person – as well as years of tobacco smoking. Older people tend to be overweight, which is another risk factor for heart illnesses. But even if it may seem as though your body is working against you, you can take charge of your health and begin to work towards healthier living in order to maintain a healthy heart.

Signs of aging may predict heart disease risk: Study

A study has found that visible signs of aging may predict heart disease risk. The study suggested that if you look older, this could also be a sign that your heart is older, too. The study found that persons who had three of the four aging signs – receding hairline, baldness of the crown, earlobe creases, or yellow fatty deposits around the eyes – had a 57 percent higher risk of a heart attack and a 39 percent higher risk of heart disease.

Study senior author Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen said, “The visible signs of aging reflect physiologic or biological age, not chronological age, and are independent of chronological age.”

The study analyzed 10,855 participants over the age of 40. In the 35-year follow-up, 3,401 participants developed heart disease and 1,708 had a heart attack. Signs of aging were found to be predictors of heart disease and heart attack regardless of other common risk factors. The strongest predictor of heart health was fatty deposits around the eyelids.

Common heart problems that can develop as we age

hdl protection against heart diseaseCommon heart problems that can develop with aging include angina, abnormal heart rhythm, anemia, arteriosclerosis, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and orthostatic hypotension, heart valve disease, transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), blood clot, deep vein thrombosis, thrombophlebitis, peripheral vascular disease, varicose veins, and aneurysms.

Preventive steps to keep your heart healthy with lifestyle changes

Moderate exercise has been shown to improve heart health in seniors over the age of 65. Moderate exercise is classified as riding a bike, going for a swim, or even heading out for a stroll.

In the study, the researchers tracked the health outcomes in nearly 2,500 Finish people over the age of 65 for 12 years. None of the participants had a serious chronic illness at the start of the study, and at least 1,600 partook in moderate exercise.

Those in the low exercise category spent most of their time watching TV and performed minimal activity. Moderate exercise was considered at least four hours of activity a week, and high exercise involved intense activities for at least three hours a week.

Those who partook in moderate exercise reduced their risk of a cardiovascular event by 31 percent. Those in the high exercise group saw a 45 percent reduction of a cardiovascular event risk. Mortality risk in the moderate exercise group was 54 percent lower than in the low exercise group. In the high exercise group, survival rate was boosted 66 percent.

Dr. Joep Perk, a cardiologist who studies heart disease prevention at Linnaeus University, said, “The message to the general public is: start moving around after retirement, if you haven’t done so already.”

Other tips to help maintain a healthy heart include:

  • Control your risk factors:Diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, so it’s important to manage these conditions. Talk to your healthcare provider about an effective treatment plan.
  • Don’t smoke:If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and get regular physical activity
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet:A diet that’s full of vegetables and fruits and whole grains is good for your heart. Limit the amount of saturated fat and sugary beverages in your diet.
  • Talk to your doctor about aspirin:Daily use of low-dose aspirin is not right for everyone. Aspirin can have side effects, so talk with your healthcare provider first.
  • Know the symptoms of a heart attack:Symptoms of heart attack in women can be different from those in men. For women, they may include shortness of breath, nausea, and an ache or feeling of tightness in the chest, arm, neck, jaw, or abdomen.

Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you can’t take an active role in maintaining heart health. It is never too late to start making those essential lifestyle changes that are needed to keep your heart healthy.

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