Heart disease is the most frequent condition in older adults and the No. 1 cause of death. Heart failure, coronary artery disease, and atrial fibrillation are common reasons for health visits and hospital stays.
Normal aging causes your heart and blood vessels to stiffen, which can lead to these conditions in later years. For people older than 75, high blood pressure is the most common heart condition. Coronary artery disease and heart failure are next.
Systolic blood pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading) rises with age. Over a lifetime, 9 out of 10 individuals will have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Your peak heart rate also declines as you age because of changes in the ability of your heart to pace itself.
Also, your function and mobility decreases as your muscles weaken. Being active is the best way to slow loss of muscle and maintain your aerobic capacity. While many older adults remain independent, your ability to do moderate to strenuous activity declines unless you take action to preserve it.
If you or a loved one is an older adult, use this condition center to learn what you can do to become empowered and be an advocate for your health.
Heart in Context
Heart disease is common in older adults and often is present with other chronic conditions. A chronic condition is one that requires treatment by a health care professional for longer than a year.
Often, heart disease must be treated in the context of these other conditions because treatment for one may hurt the other. For example, if you need to take blood thinners for atrial fibrillation, it is important to consider any history of bleeding. In addition, aging in the liver and kidneys changes how medications affect the older body.
When treatment is needed, setting goals for heart care can keep the focus on treatments most likely to achieve them, which is even more important when you have more than one condition. Your heart treatment plan should take into account all your conditions.
Keeping in mind the relationship among diseases and their treatments is a main concern. Health care professionals must work together to ensure care is effective.
Most important, many trials of evidence-based medicine did not include individuals with more than one chronic condition or those older than 75. Therefore, it’s not certain whether older adults with many conditions will enjoy the same benefits for treatments tested in other groups of adults.
A geriatric cardiology approach to treatment considers the heart in context of other conditions, your goals for health, and prioritizes quality of life.