Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 650,000 people each year. During American Heart Health Month, we raise awareness of the risks of heart disease, remember those we have lost, and highlight steps we can all take to live a healthier life.
People aged 65 and older are much more likely than younger people to suffer a heart attack, to have a stroke, or to develop coronary heart disease (commonly called heart disease) and heart failure. Heart disease is also a major cause of disability, limiting the activity and eroding the quality of life of millions of older people. For Heart Health Awareness Month, each week we will be detailing ways to improve overall heart health in Seniors.
Heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits, or plaques, in the walls of the coronary arteries over many years. The coronary arteries surround the outside of the heart and supply blood nutrients and oxygen to the heart muscle. When plaque builds up inside the arteries, there is less space for blood to flow normally and deliver oxygen to the heart. If the flow of blood to your heart is reduced by plaque buildup or is blocked if a plaque suddenly ruptures, it can cause angina (chest pain or discomfort) or a heart attack. When the heart muscle does not get enough oxygen and blood nutrients, the heart muscle cells will die (heart attack) and weaken the heart, diminishing its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. The most common aging change is increased stiffness of the large arteries, called arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This causes high blood pressure, or hypertension, which becomes more common as we age.
The good news is there are things you can do to delay, lower, possibly avoid or reverse your risk. More on that next week…