Aging brings an increased risk for heart disease and cardiovascular events. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death for adults over the age of 65. That’s why understanding the value of a heart-healthy lifestyle is so important for older adults including our patients, clients, parents, spouses and ourselves.
Some older adults believe that heart disease is an inevitable part of aging, but a heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease. Others underestimate the importance of heart health because they believe heart disease can be cured with surgery or medicine. The truth is heart disease is a lifelong condition that never goes away once it presents.
What is heart disease? The term heart disease refers to a group of cardiovascular diseases which are diseases of the heart and blood vessel system. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD is often associated with heart attacks, heart failure, chest pain and irregular heartbeat. Other cardiovascular diseases include stroke, high blood pressure and rheumatic heart disease.
The American Heart Association has developed a simple seven-step list to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives. The list includes the following:
· Get active
· Eat better
· Lose weight
· Stop smoking
· Manage blood pressure
· Control cholesterol
· Reduce blood sugar
A heart-healthy lifestyle is possible at any age, but it does require a conscious effort. In addition to the recommendations provided by the American Heart Association, the following recommendations are also meaningful:
· Consider reducing alcohol intake. Excess alcohol consumption can negatively impact health conditions that contribute to heart disease like blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
· Work to reduce stress. Stress might be a risk factor or it could be that high levels of stress compound common chronic illnesses associated with aging like high blood pressure or diabetes.