Heart Health Risks For Older Adults

2.19-heartrisks cropped

Many older adults have difficulty with sleeping – whether it’s getting too little sleep, too much sleep, or doing too much napping during the day, it’s a common problem.

As the issue persists, it can lead to a variety of health concerns. Fatigue is an obvious one, and even cognitive problems can arise. But did you know sleep issues can also lead to problems with heart health in older adults?

A 2023 study by the American Heart Association (AHA) “found adults 45 and older who fell asleep at different times each night and slept an inconsistent number of hours were more likely to develop atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in artery walls that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.”

Indeed, just about every aspect of health aging, including sleep, can tie back to heart health in older adults. It’s vital to know risk factors, because heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Not only that, a recent study shows that half of Americans aren’t even aware that that’s the case.

Statistics On Heart Disease And Older Adults

The statistics surrounding heart disease in the United States are stark enough. Consider the following data from the AHA’s recent report:

  • 46.7% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, but 38% of those with high blood pressure are unaware that they have it.
  • Approximately every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. will have a heart attack.
  • Just under one million people died from cardiovascular disease (CVD)* 2023.

The figures are particularly acute for those 65 and older. As is the case for the country at large, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in those 65 and older. The numbers continue from there:

  • From 2015-2018, 49.1% of American adults had one form of CVD.
  • In that same time period, for Americans ages 60-79, 77.5% of men and 75.4% of women had CVD.
  • For those 80 and older, the numbers jumped to 89.4% of men and 90.8% of women.
  • Among those 65-74, 67.5% of men and 75.7% of women had high blood pressure.
  • For those 75 and older, it was 83.6% of men and 84.5% of women.

*Cardiovascular disease refers to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, arrythmia, heart valve problems and more.

Physical Changes in Heart Health With Aging

As we age, there are a wide variety of physical impacts that affect us. For one, we lose muscle mass every decade beginning in our 30s, which leads to increased fall risk with aging. Eyesight and hearing deteriorate for many people as well.

It’s a reality that comes with aging, and the heart is no different. Some of the impact of aging on heart health can include:

  • Changes in the heart’s electrical system that can cause quicker or slower heart rates.
  • Valves in the heart thicken and stiffen, which can lead to fluid build-up in other parts of the body.
  • The size of the heart chambers increases, and the heart wall thickens, lowering the amount of blood the heart can hold, which causes high blood pressure.
  • Fat deposits in the heart.

What Can We Do?

Despite the statistics, and the physical changes that come with age, there are plenty of things we can do for our hearts. Among them are:

  • Fitness: The CDC recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week for older adults, with a combination of cardiovascular activity, strength training and balance.
  • Nutrition: Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, stay away from processed food where possible and switch to whole grains for bread and pasta.
  • Manage stress: The impacts of stress impact appetite, energy and sleep, all of which add to the effects on a senior’s heart health. Understand the stressors in your life and take steps to mitigate them as much as possible.
  • Sleep: As noted above, sleep has an impact on heart health. Try to maintain a consistent sleep routine and avoid lengthy daytime naps that can adversely affect your ability to get to sleep at night.

You can learn more about heart health techniques, as well as fill out a heart health checklist, by downloading our free guide to heart health today.

Heart Health At Prestige

At Prestige, we take our residents’ health to heart. Our talented culinary teams prepare meals with the heart health needs of older adults in mind, including portion sizes and sodium intake.

Furthermore, residents at Prestige take part in fitness classes designed to help with cardiovascular health. Residents can do the workouts seated, standing, or a combination of both, but regardless of ability or comfort level, our teams ensure residents meet or exceed the recommended fitness programs.

And of course, our health services teams help keep residents healthy and strong, with cardiovascular health an important element.

For more about how Prestige can help you or a loved one with cardiovascular health, find a community near you to book a tour. And don’t forget, you can download our free guide to heart health, which has even more information, advice and resources.