Changes in the physiology of the cardiovascular system is a part of normal aging. The normal aging process is universal within the species, an integral part of the individual development, deleterious to survival, progressive, permanent and irreversible. With the advancing age, some changes in the heart and blood vessels occur normally. However, many other changes that occur are a result of modifiable factors leading to heart diseases. Therefore, require treatment or else will cause complications or even death. Heart disease is very common in the senile age. Often the disease is of chronic origin during this time of life. Frequently, heart disease occurs in the context of other serious health conditions and require medical aid. With the advancing age, heart diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart disease is the no. 1 cause of death in older adults. During the process of normal aging, the heart muscles and blood vessels start to stiffen, which can lead to heart failure, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation and tachycardia in later years. These senile heart conditions are also very common reasons for the elderly to visit and stay in health care centers and hospitals. A long term high blood pressure is the most common cause of heart condition in people above 75 years. Next, come the coronary artery disease and heart failure. There are two sides of the heart, right and left. The function of the right side is to pump blood to the lungs to receive oxygen and get rid of the waste product i.e., carbon dioxide. Whereas, the left side pump oxygen-rich blood and supply it to the rest of the body. The oxygen-rich blood is carried out through arteries, and tiny capillaries.
Age-related changes in the heart: The human heart has an inbuilt pacemaker system called SA node to control the heartbeat. Aging pigment( lipofuscin), fibrous tissue and fat deposits may develop with the passing time along the pathways of this system. The SA node loses some of its cells during this time. The heart rate becomes slightly slower and the muscles of the heart start degenerating slightly. The ECG of a normal, healthy older person is slightly different than the ECG of a healthy younger adult. During old age, a slight increase in the size of the heart, especially the left ventricle may occur, the heart valve may start to thicken and become stiffer. These changes lead to a slower filling of the heart and a decreased capacity of the chamber to hold the amount of blood despite the increased overall heart size. Abnormal heart rhythms and heart murmurs are noticed.
The effects of the senile changes in the heat: An older heart may find it difficult to pump blood as compared to a young heart. Physical activity and daily routine push the heart to work harder. During old age some of the other things that push your heart to work harder are:
- Certain medicines
- Emotional stress and tension
- Physical exertion
- Chronic illness
A common problem during old age:
- Angina is a sign not a disease. The most common symptom of ischemic heart disease is angina presented as chest pain. The chest pain occurs by temporarily reduced blood flow through narrowed arteries to the heart muscle due to plaque build-up ), shortness of breath with exertion and heart attack can result from coronary artery disease. It is a signal in people aged 75 or older a risk for a heart attack.
- Congestive heart failure is also a very common cause of sudden death in elderly people.
- Arrhythmias and atrial fibrillation of various types can occur during old age.
- Arteriosclerosis due to fatty plaque deposits inside the blood vessels causes them to stiffen, narrow and block blood supply through the vessels.
- Coronary artery disease is fairly the most common cause of heart disease in the elderly. It is often a result of diffuse and severe arteriosclerosis and left main coronary artery stenosis.
- High blood pressure and orthostatic hypotension are very common among people above 60. A badly managed case of blood pressure could be life-threatening.
- Heart valve diseases, aortic stenosis, are the most common valve disease in the elderly.
- Transient ischemic attacks (TIA) or strokes can occur due to ischemia ( lack of oxygen) as a result of poor blood supply or narrowed arteries blocking the blood flow to the brain.
- -Other problems with the heart and blood vessels during later adulthood/old age include the following:
- Deep vein thrombosis and varicose veins
- Blood clots
- Peripheral vascular disease, contributing to claudication and intermittent pain in the legs when walking
- Aneurysms (abnormal widening or ballooning of a part of an artery) may develop in one of the major arteries from the heart or the brain. If an aneurysm bursts it may cause massive internal bleeding and cause sudden death. A screening test can be done to check aneurysm in the abdominal aorta.
- Anemia may occur in the elderly, possibly as a result of malnutrition, chronic infections, blood loss from the gastrointestinal tract, trauma, or as a complication of other chronic diseases or medicines.
During old age the physiology of the body slows down, so is the functioning of the vital organs. The mobility of the bones and muscles also become weaker. The capacity to perform routine activity declines with the age unless you take action to preserve it. You can reduce the risk factors to your heart and blood vessels by healthy lifestyle modification and control over high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and smoking. To preserve the functioning of the heart and stay fit, you and your loved ones should advocate the following prevention methods in daily routine for better health.
- Abstain or stop smoking.
- Eat a healthy heart diet with reduced amounts of saturated fat, to keep blood cholesterol in check and control your weight. It will help to prevent the risks of heart ailments.
- Stay active and get moderate routine exercise. Exercise not only helps to prevent obesity but also keeps the level of blood sugar check in diabetics. Exercise helps in the reduction of stress. Although its a challenge to maintain a routine a regular and moderate exercise is one of the best things to keep your heart, and the body, healthy.
- Blood pressure problems can also be managed better with a heart-healthy routine.
A visit to a doctor is necessary for older age
It is important to have regular check-ups for the heart especially in people above 75 years. Along with the prevention methods all coronary patients are advised to approach a comprehensive cardiovascular prevention and rehabilitation program. These programs include regular visits to your health practitioner to address all aspects of lifestyle-smoking cessation, advising healthy eating and physical activity routine plans. It is an effective way of management of blood pressure, lipids, and glucose. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, or certain other conditions, close monitoring becomes essential.