Your Risk Of Heart Disease Goes Up When You Reach This Age

With age comes a whole host of health considerations. One of the most important things to keep in mind is heart health. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. A study published in the journal Circulation in 2023 showed that coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease, was responsible for the deaths of 375,476 people in 2021.

As we age, our bodies undergo physiological changes that can impact our cardiovascular system, making it more susceptible to various health issues. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) reports that adults aged 65 and older are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than younger people.

Gaining insight into how aging affects your heart and related risks is a positive and proactive step toward maintaining good heart health. With the right information, you can take charge of your heart's well-being by adopting preventative measures to protect it, ensuring your heart stays strong and healthy as you age.

The complexities of heart disease and aging

Heart disease is an umbrella term that refers to numerous medical conditions affecting the heart and its ability to function properly, such as coronary artery disease, heart rhythm disorders, and heart valve problems. These conditions can range from mild to severe and can significantly impact a person's overall health. Although heart disease can affect individuals of all ages, it becomes more prevalent and concerning as we get older. As we age, our bodies undergo a series of changes. Some of these changes are natural responses to the wear and tear of time, while others are influenced by lifestyle choices.

For example, according to MedlinePlus, the arteries that supply blood to the heart lose their flexibility, which can increase the risk of fatty deposits building up and narrowing the arteries. This can lead to heart disease and make it difficult for the heart to function properly. The heart's muscular walls may also become less elastic and thicker, making it harder for the heart to pump blood effectively. 

High blood pressure is another common issue as we age, and it can strain the heart (via the Cleveland Clinic). Changes in our cholesterol levels are also common with age, which can further contribute to heart disease (per the National Institute on Aging). Unhealthy lifestyle choices like a poor diet, lack of exercise, and smoking can significantly impact heart health over time as well (via the CDC).

Safeguarding your heart health

There are many steps you can take to protect and maintain your heart health. One of the best things you can do is to eat a nutritious diet, including lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, and high-fiber foods. Try to limit saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is also crucial for heart health. 

Exercise can help regulate blood pressure, improve circulation, and boost cardiovascular fitness. Strive for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week, as recommended by the American Heart Association.  

Chronic stress can take a toll on your heart, so consider trying meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or mindfulness to help manage stress and promote emotional well-being. If you smoke, quitting is one of the most impactful things you can do to protect your heart. And if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. 

And don't forget to keep up with recommended health exams. Early detection of risk factors and conditions can enable timely intervention. Finally, be sure to take any medications prescribed by your healthcare provider to manage heart-related conditions or risk factors. Consult with them regularly to assess your heart health and receive personalized guidance on preventive measures and lifestyle modifications.