Did you know that heart blockages or plaque buildup on the artery wall (which could ultimately lead to coronary artery disease) usually occurs 10 years earlier for men compared to women? Of course, this will depend on individual circumstances and health standing but for men older than 45, these blockages often occur, this happens for women after the age of 55 on average. Plaque buildup is dangerous and it can put seniors at risk if any of it breaks off and forms a clot that could potentially stop blood flow.
Heart disease doesn’t just come with age as heart attacks and heart problems in general can occur at any age. However, seniors are more prone to experience heart health issues and while it’s a preconceived notion that family history and poor lifestyle habits control how vulnerable you are to this, there are other factors that seniors should be aware of as well.
Up to half of older adults aren’t taking their prescribed medications as they should and some of those prescriptions include options that could potentially save a life as it pertains to heart health. Because such a large number of seniors are throwing caution to the wind and taking heart health lightly, it can be beneficial to be reminded about what you should be paying attention to and what you can prevent.
Heart Disease and Stroke: What Seniors Should Pay Attention to
Heart disease and stroke are significant health issues that affect millions of seniors worldwide. Heart disease refers to various conditions that disrupt the proper functioning of the heart and blood vessels. On the other hand, a stroke occurs when there is a sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, leading to damage to brain cells.
Both conditions can have severe consequences, impacting a person’s quality of life and overall well-being. At least 75% of the strokes that occur in the U.S. and 85% of those that have a fatal heart attack in the U.S. happen to people 65 or older. This fact should shed light on the seriousness of the dangers that older adults might face concerning threats to their heart health.
What’s even more disheartening though is that around 80% of both premature heart disease and strokes are actually preventable. If seniors adjusted their lifestyle and diet with age, prescriptions were taken on time and as prescribed, and more seniors opted-in for preventative tactics, fewer heart attacks and strokes would occur.
Are You at a Higher Risk for Heart Disease?
Keep in mind that as we age, the risk factors for heart disease and stroke tend to accumulate and this is especially true if seniors aren’t following their care plans and medication schedules closely. It’s crucial for older adults to be aware of these risk factors and take necessary precautions because death by heart attack or stroke doesn’t always have to occur. Some common risk factors include:
Yes, Hypertension Is A Leading Factor
High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Regular blood pressure checks should never be skipped, and if hypertension is detected, appropriate measures should be taken to manage it. Unmanaged HBP significantly raises your risk of heart attack and stroke, makes you susceptible to developing vision problems, and also makes you more likely to develop heart failure.
So Are High Cholesterol Levels
Elevated levels of cholesterol can lead to the formation of plaque in the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart and brain. It might sound surprising but 4.4 million deaths each year in the U.S. are caused by high cholesterol alone. Seniors should undergo lipid profile tests and work with their healthcare providers to manage cholesterol levels and not wait until their annual physical to ask about it. What’s even better is that lipid profiles can be done in the comfort of your own home and the instructions are easy to follow.
It Might Be Comfortable for Older Adults but A Sedentary Lifestyle for Seniors Is Not Ideal
Lack of physical activity can weaken the heart and lead to various health problems. Seniors should aim for regular exercise tailored to their abilities and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new fitness routine especially if they are prone to falls or have a disability that alters their physical abilities.
You’ll Want to Consider Quitting Smoking if You Do
Smoking damages blood vessels and greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Seniors who smoke should consider seeking support to quit this habit immediately as it can be detrimental to a variety of health factors and cause a string of other issues such as chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.
Diabetes Also Can’t Be Ignored
As we age, we grow more resistant to insulin and we often develop a deficiency of insulin secretion. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves, heightening the risk of heart disease. Seniors with diabetes must manage their blood sugar levels effectively through diet, medication, and lifestyle modifications. What you should also be aware of as a senior is that people with Type 2 diabetes are often at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Prevent Heart Blockages
Preventing heart blockages is crucial for seniors’ heart health and honestly, some tactics can literally save the lives of people of all ages. Heart blockages occur when the blood flow to the heart muscle is restricted due to narrowed or blocked arteries. You need to get into the habit of utilizing some preventive measures such as adopting a heart-healthy diet. Basically, avoid sugary and highly carbonated drinks.
Start prioritizing healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. With age, our bodies don’t respond as they might have in our teens or 20s so it’s important to treat our bodies with care. Seniors should also be engaging in moderate aerobic exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Strengthening exercises should also be incorporated to improve overall cardiovascular fitness and no, these things should not be skipped.
Additionally, don’t forget to manage your stress better, continue or start if you haven’t already with regular checkups and physicals, and always adhere to medications prescribed by your doctor.
For Seniors, It’s About More Than Physical Health
Beyond diet and exercise, social connection plays a vital role in seniors’ heart health. Studies have shown that individuals with strong social connections tend to have better cardiovascular outcomes. Engaging in social activities, spending time with loved ones, and participating in community events can positively impact seniors’ heart health and overall well-being.
This is often overlooked and the harsh reality is that many older adults don’t have strong family ties, support from family, or strong friendships which can make social exposure more difficult. However, there is always a way around this from joining social clubs, intentionally working on long-distance connections, and learning more about senior-specific activities in your community.
Saving a Life With Better Choices
Understanding “what the heart wants” is vital for seniors’ health and wellness. By identifying risk factors, adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle, and incorporating nourishing foods into their diets, seniors can take proactive steps toward maintaining a strong and healthy heart. However, it takes a lot more than dieting and lifestyle changes to turn the health status of your heart around. Fostering social connections and maintaining more social exposure can further enhance heart health, promoting a happy and fulfilling life with age which is hard to ignore.
Remember, it’s never too late to prioritize heart health, and every small effort makes a significant difference in living a heart-healthy life which could also save your life.