5 Causes of Heart Disease in the Elderly
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is an array of different problematic conditions related to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a narrowing of the arteries due to a buildup of plaque on the arterial wall surfaces. When the arteries are narrowed, it is much harder for blood to flow. This can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke, especially if blood clots form inside the artery.
As we age, our hearts and blood vessels may go through some natural changes that contribute to heart disease. Some of these include:
- Slower heart rate
- Arrhythmias or abnormal heart rhythms
- Enlargement and stiffening of the heart muscles
- Orthostatic Hypotension or low blood pressure upon standing
- Higher blood pressure
- Change in blood viscosity
What Contributes to These Changes and Eventually to Heart Disease?
Some seniors are genetically predisposed to high cholesterol, while others may have poor dietary habits. Cholesterol is a wax-like substance that is naturally occurring in our bodies. It is necessary for the production of cell membranes, vitamin D, and certain hormones.
LDL cholesterol is the bad kind that is often caused by overconsumption of trans-fats and sugar, or foods that convert to glucose in the body. While HDL is the good cholesterol that helps keep LDL in check by clearing it out of the bloodstream as waste.
Eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and some whole grains is recommended for keeping LDL cholesterol in check. Exercise can also help by ramping up HDL levels.
Physical stress and emotional stress can place a great deal of strain on aging adults’ hearts. Physical stress can be directly related to an illness, injury, or some medications. Emotional stress is likely more detrimental to cardiovascular health. Emotional stress can be managed with things like meditation, low-impact exercise, and social interaction to help reduce the risks associated with heart disease.
Type II diabetes is often a result of poor diet resulting in obesity. Consumption of unhealthy foods, such as fast food, junk food, and sugar can lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Being obese puts a tremendous strain on heart muscles.
Eating better and exercising to take control of diabetes is essential in preventing heart disease.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is an increase in the rate at which blood flows through vessels. This condition can be hereditary or caused by certain health conditions, stress, and medications. Hypertension can lead to a stroke or heart attack.
In senior years checking blood pressure daily with a home monitor is a good idea. Controlling high blood pressure is often accomplished through a combination of exercise, dietary modifications, stress management, and prescription medications.
Cigarette smoking is one of the worst things one can do for heart health. In fact, smoking has systematically carcinogenic effects on the body. When toxic chemicals are inhaled the bloodstream is flooded with contaminants instead of pure oxygen. These toxins can lead to hardening of the arteries.
Getting on a plan to stop smoking could prevent many health conditions and increases the chances of longevity.