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Preventing Heart Disease in the Elderly

written by: Harry Sylvester • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/21/2010

The elderly are susceptible to heart disease. Their heart undergoes specific changes due to aging. Find several tips for heart disease prevention in the elderly along with the reasons why they are at a greater risk for the disease.

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    Why are Elderly People at a Greater Risk for Heart Disease?

    Heart disease may affect both men and women, especially the elderly or seniors. The heart experiences significant changes as they grow old. At this time, their heart is unable to pump blood as well as it could when they were younger. The ventricles (the pumping chambers) become more rigid and function less normally because the heart muscles cannot fully relax between beats.

    In addition, their aging heart cannot completely promote strength of its contractions during activity, as the heart is less reactive to stimulation by adrenaline. When it comes to oxygen intake, their old heart can not supply the muscles as well with oxygen-rich blood, debilitating themselves while they are doing daily activities. These physiologic changes in an aging heart allow them to develop heart problems, including bradycardia (slow heart rhythms), heart valve disease (malfunctions of one or more heart valves), and heart attack.

    This disease remains one of the major causes of death in the U.S. You may help care for loved ones to prevent it from occurring, as this disease can affect longevity and quality of life. Below are several tips available for heart disease prevention in the elderly:

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    Quit Smoking

    Quitting smoking is the most recommended conduct to avoid heart disease. Tobacco products, such as cigars and cigarettes, and secondhand smoke can contribute to harming the heart and blood vessels. If one smokes, nicotine in a cigarette enables less oxygen to go to the heart. It compels the heart to overwork to deliver adequate oxygen, boosting the blood pressure and heart rate. Stopping smoking may decrease the risk for heart disease within a year, regardless of how long someone has smoked.

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    Consume Heart-healthy Foods

    Restricting foods containing saturated fat and avoiding foods containing trans-fat in the elderly people is very essential since they raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk for coronary artery disease. Foods with trans-fat include margarine, bakery goods, fast foods, packaged snack foods, and crackers. Examples of foods containing saturated fat that should be avoided include cheese, butter, milk, beef, and palm oils.

    Likewise, it is commonly recommended consuming a lot of fruits, vegetables, and grain products in addition to lean meats, fish, legumes, and fat-free dairy products. These heart healthy foods are low in cholesterol and fat. For optimal results, it is advocated to add five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can also lower the possibility of a heart attack.

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    Drink Black or Green Tea

    Black and green tea, which contain antioxidants, proves effective in helping in the prevention of this disease in seniors. These teas might decrease a dangerous constriction of blood vessels after a high-fat intake. Avoid adding milk to a cup of tea because this can destroy its efficacy to protect from the disease.

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    Perform Some Moderate Workouts and Hearty Laughter

    Elderly people might benefit from moderate workouts and laughter. Physical activity for about 10 to 15 minutes a day can greatly protect them from cardiovascular disease. As a caregiver, you may ask the one you love to walk the dog, do some gardening, or help with cleaning the house. These activities equal workouts, allowing the elderly to maintain a healthy weight as well.

    As stressful conditions exacerbate this disease, it is recommended decreasing stress with laughter. You can tell funny stories or watch movies at home to make the one you love laugh. Laughter can help maintain normal blood pressure, causing the heart to relax.

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    Get Regular Checkups

    Regular screening includes cholesterol and blood pressure checkups. Have the one you love checked regularly and frequently.

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    References

    Med.yale.edu.com: Heart Disease in the Elderly - http://www.med.yale.edu/library/heartbk/21.pdf

    The University of Maryland Medical Center: Heart Disease: Tips for Prevention - http://www.umm.edu/features/tips_prev.htm

    MayoClinic.com: 5 Medication-free Strategies to Help Prevent Heart Disease - http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-prevention/WO00041