Heart Health for Seniors — What You Need to Know

elderly woman getting a checkup by a female doctor

One report from the American Heart Association (AHA) states that "[c]ardiovascular disease claims more lives each year in the U.S. than all forms of cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease combined." To put that into perspective, that means that heart disease is responsible for roughly 1 in 5 deaths (20%) in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Older adults in particular are at enhanced risk of heart disease, making it a major component of senior health. If you're older—or have an aging loved one—here is what you need to know about heart health for seniors.

Common Heart Issues in Older Adults

Some of the most common heart-related issues older people face include:

  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease). Heart disease is a blanket term that refers to a wide variety of heart-related conditions and diseases. In the United States, the most common form of cardiovascular disease is coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease (CAD).
  • Heart attack. Heart attack is a major complication of CAD and occurs when blood cannot get to or from the heart.
  • Congestive heart failure. Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump as well as it used to, which can lead to potentially lethal fluid buildup.
  • Arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are irregular heartbeats, including heartbeats that are too fast or too slow.
  • Angina pectoris. Also called ischemic chest pain, angina occurs when blood flow to the heart is restricted, leading to pain or tightness in the chest.
  • Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in and around the artery walls.

Risk Factors and Causes of Heart Problems

Older adults face enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease and related conditions for a variety of reasons, including:

Living a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle While Aging

Certain factors for heart problems are out of our control, like family history and age. That said, there are plenty of risk factors for heart issues that are absolutely controllable, which means certain lifestyle changes can improve heart health.

Actionable steps people can take to improve their cardiovascular health include:

  • Not smoking. Quitting the use of tobacco and nicotine products—including e-cigarettes and vapes—is just about the single-best action someone can take to improve their overall health, including the health of their heart. According to the AHA, heart disease risk decreases by half just a year after quitting these products.
  • Getting regular check-ups and not avoiding the doctor when something feels wrong. Regular doctor visits means it's easier to catch potential issues early on and start treatment earlier, which can lead to better health outcomes.
  • Sleeping enough. Sleep is intimately linked to heart health, meaning that prioritizing sleep is prioritizing the heart. Older people need roughly 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
  • Enjoying a heart-healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet can lead to a healthy weight and improved blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, all of which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues. A heart-healthy diet should include healthy proteins, whole grains, and the right kind of fatty acids from sources like avocados and fish.
  • Getting enough physical activity. Getting enough exercise can improve mood, make it easier to sleep, strengthen heart muscles, make it easier to maintain a healthy weight, and improve overall well-being. Older adults, according to the CDC, should get roughly 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 minutes of intense exercise) each week. This activity should include both including strength-training and aerobic exercises, such as tai chi and brisk walking,
  • Taking medications, if directed by a doctor. Sometimes prescription drugs are needed along with a healthy diet and exercise to improve heart health. These medications can include statins and blood thinners.

Heart Health at St. Andrew's

A healthy heart is a major component in maintaining a high quality of life. Caregivers, cooks, and healthcare professionals in the St. Andrew's network know this fact. That is why we are committed to helping each and every resident in our communities take charge of their cardiovascular health, which includes offering plenty of opportunities for exercise and getting delicious and nutritious meals. Contact us today to learn more about how we manage heart health for seniors.

Disclaimers: This article has not been reviewed by a licensed medical professional. This article is for informational purposes only. It cannot be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Always direct healthcare concerns to a licensed healthcare professional.

Related Posts

  • Elderly man and grand child doing yoga on floor, in living room

    5 Easy Chair Yoga Exercises for Seniors

    In the pursuit of holistic well-being as you age, many people may be in search of a low-impact form of [...]

  • Three elderly people smiling with thumbs up

    What are the Seven Dimensions of Wellness?

    Health is not just physical fitness— it's so much more. At St. Andrew's, providing comprehensive, whole-person care is intricately woven into [...]