NJ Senior Care Blog

February is American Heart Month: 4 Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Seniors

For American Heart Month, we’re examining 4 of the main risk factors for heart disease in seniors.  

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. Among adults 65 and older, heart disease accounted for over 25% of deaths in 2017. 

Despite the numbers, cardiovascular disease is not an inevitable side effect of aging. With the right precautions, older Americans can lower their risk of developing CVD, stroke, heart attack and even coronary artery disease. 

These are 4 of the biggest risk factors for heart disease for seniors--and how to avoid them. 


1. Hypertension

The main risk factor for heart disease for seniors is hypertension. 

Hypertension is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a condition in which “the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.”

High blood pressure puts extra strain on your blood vessels by causing fat deposits to build up on your artery walls. This causes the arteries to become narrow and become less elastic. This increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney problems. 

According to the American Heart Association, hypertension is defined as a blood pressure reading of 130/80 mmHg or higher. Systolic blood pressure (top number) that is higher than 140 is considered Stage 2 hypertension in people without diabetes or kidney disease, but may be considered normal for people suffering from those conditions. 

It’s important to remember that every senior is different and should talk to his or her doctor before making changes to diet or exercise routines.

2. Smoking

Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals that interfere with virtually all of the body’s important processes. 

Smoking causes the body’s arteries to tighten and can lead to the build-up of plaque in the artery walls. Over time, that plaque buildup can lead to atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular disease that increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and peripheral vascular disease. 

Smoking also raises LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad cholesterol”, which transports cholesterol from the liver to the bloodstream. Too much bad cholesterol in the blood can cause coronary artery disease and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. 

For older people, it is vital to quit smoking as soon as possible. Quitting smoking immediately improves the lungs’ function. 


 3. Obesity

From 2007-2010, over 30% of U.S. adults aged 65 and older were considered obese by the BMI standard. Obesity has been linked to a number of serious health conditions, including an increased risk of hypertension and heart disease. 

Seniors are especially vulnerable to many of the risk factors for becoming obese. Chronic illness and mobility issues often affect seniors’ ability to stay physically active. Additionally, living alone and being unable to drive can make it difficult for seniors to receive the nutritious meals they need to maintain a healthy weight. 

4. Depression

Depression has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, especially in the older adults. Additionally, seniors who have been diagnosed with heart disease experience accelerated symptoms if they become depressed. 

Why is there a link between depression and heart disease? 

It appears to come from two separate sources: the physiological features of depression and the choices people tend to make when they’re depressed. 

Depression increases the body’s levels of glucose and cortisol. Stress hormones like contribute to a rise in triglycerides and cholesterol. Similarly, depression often causes individuals to choose unhealthy foods, neglect personal care and avoid exercise. Together, these habits can increase the risk of heart disease. 

Can Home Care Services Improve Seniors’ Heart Health?

Isolation, loneliness and lack of access to healthy food are some of the key contributors to unhealthy heart habits in older people. Home care services can be a lifesaver for seniors who live alone. An in-home caregiver can encourage daily exercise, help cook nutritious meals, and provide the friendly socialization seniors need to stay healthy. 

If you or a loved one is interested in companion care in Burlington or Mercer Counties in New Jersey contact Visiting Angels-- a fully-accredited personal care services company.

Each Visiting Angels agency is a franchise that is independently owned and operated. The Franchisor, Living Assistance Services Inc., does not control or manage the day to day business operations of any Visiting Angels franchised agency.