As we age, our risk of cardiovascular disease increases. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in elderly people. But ironically, the older people get, the less likely they are to be included in clinical trials investigating ways to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Doctors and researchers often believe it’s too late to begin preventative treatment in older adults. Many look to studies of younger people that indicate that prevention techniques can take years to lower risk. Then they assume there’s no point in starting when a patient may not have that many years left. However, other researchers are fighting against this idea. They point out that because older adults have a different baseline risk level than younger people, the relative risk reduction can be much higher.
I don’t think at a certain birthday any of us are going to stop taking care of ourselves. Recently, the Canadian Journal of Cardiology reviewed a number of studies that examined how older adults can benefit from preventative cardiovascular treatment. It identified a number of strategies that can be helpful no matter how many candles are on your birthday cake. It also looked at some, such as antiplatelet therapy, that didn’t seem to do much good. The researchers stressed that for older adults, it’s important that these strategies be tailored to the individual. What’s good for one senior may not be the best for another.
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This is particularly true when it comes to blood pressure. The researchers found that keeping blood pressure in a healthy range (a systolic level of about 120 to 150 mmHg) could go a long way in preventing heart attacks and strokes in the elderly population. However, they stressed that this number needed to be individualized to the patient, taking into consideration frailty and any other health issues. Ask your doctor to help you identify a healthy target for your blood pressure, and make sure he can explain how he arrived at that number. It shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all answer given to every patient.
The researchers also found that elderly adults could reduce their cardiovascular disease risk by making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. If you haven’t made these changes before, this review tells you that it’s never too late to start. Just make sure you have your doctor’s approval before beginning any exercise program, and ask for help if you need it to kick a smoking habit. It’s challenging to stop something you’ve been doing for decades, but it is possible, and it’s beneficial.
While this study didn’t address supplements specifically, it does indicate that taking supplements at any age can help. Vitamin E, CoQ10 (ubiquinone), magnesium, Methylcobalamin and methylfolate, along with all of the B vitamins have demonstrated some efficacy in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
Cardiovascular disease doesn’t have to be inevitable. The choices you make today can reduce your risk of suffering a heart attack tomorrow whether you’re 25 or 85. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s too late to take charge of your health.
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Arden R. Barry, Deirdre E. O’Neill, Michelle M. Graham. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Older Adults. CJC, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2016.01.032
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