We’re living longer and better than our forebears did. And technological and scientific advances make it easier to feel young and stay healthy than ever. But aging still has an impact on our day-to-day lives.
No matter how healthy or genetically fortunate we are, as we age we experience cellular, muscular, neurological and organic decline. Even so, we can do a lot to build and maintain better heart health and to improve our likelihood of longer, more vigorous lives.
How Does the Heart Change with Age?
Our hearts undergo many modifications as we get older.
A small increase in the size of the heart, especially the left ventricle, is not uncommon as we age. While the thickening makes the heart bigger, it actually decreases each chamber’s capacity to hold blood, so the heart fills more slowly. Our heart muscle cells degenerate slightly, so the heart chambers may become slightly stiffer and the valves that control the direction of blood flow may thicken.
Additionally, blood vessels throughout our body lose some of their efficiency, and sometimes become partially blocked by fatty deposits.
Our hearts’ natural pacemaker system controls the heartbeat. Over time, some of this system’s pathways may transform, altering heart rhythm or rate. These changes may be benign, but in some cases they can be serious. That’s why the doctor sometimes orders an electrocardiogram, or EKG. Abnormal rhythms, or arrhythmias, are more common in older people, and frequently are the result of heart disease.
Several factors can place an additional burden on the heart, including medications, physical exertion, emotional stress, infection, illness and significant injury.
How Can I Increase My Heart Health?
"The good news is that several behaviors can lessen the likelihood that heart and circulatory problems will arise or will lessen their severity if they do," says Paul Adams, Senior Director of Product Management for Philips Lifeline and a cardiothoracic nurse who practiced in the UK. "Treating your body well can add years to life and life to years."
Important behaviors to promote your best heart health include:
- Complying fully and carefully with your medication schedule
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Following your primary caregiver's plan to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, or other chronic health problems
- Becoming more physically active
How Can I Improve My Overall Wellbeing?
These actions will help you safeguard your heart and reduce risk of cardiovascular issues. You can further fortify your overall health and wellbeing with a personal medical alert system that empowers you to get immediate help if, despite your best efforts, a health emergency arises.
Philips Lifeline’s medical alert systems connect you to a response associate when you press the button. Or you can select a product with AutoAlert fall detection technology, which can automatically call for help if a fall is detected1. You can live even more independently with GoSafe, which uses multiple technologies to pinpoint your location.
"No one lives forever, but we are in charge of our own bodies,” says Ivan Salgo, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer at Philips Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions. “If we strive to maintain a positive attitude and take the actions needed to promote our health we will enjoy better quality of life for every day we have."