Seniors Weighing Heart Health Options

American Heart Association emphasizes personalized medical approaches in new statement

(RxWiki News) Keeping the heart and circulatory system healthy is important for everyone, but it is especially important for older adults. The American Heart Association recently released a new scientific statement on seniors and their heart health.

The statement emphasizes that seniors need different strategies to prevent heart attacks, strokes and other serious heart health problems. The authors wrote that older adults face different health circumstances that require personalized approaches.

The authors also said that older patients should be involved in decisions about their health, as they may be less willing to choose more invasive treatment interventions.

"Ask your doctor for tips on heart-healthy habits."

Jerome Fleg, MD, and Daniel Forman, MD, led the group that wrote the American Heart Association's scientific statement on preventing heart disease in older adults.

Specifically, the statement deals with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, a condition in which a build-up of fat and calcium in the arteries increases the risk of heart- and circulation-related events.

According to the statement, about 6 percent of the population is 75 years old or older. In 2008, 67 percent of heart-related deaths in the United States occurred in people who were 75 years old or older.

The authors of the statement also said that the risk of developing heart disease, atherosclerosis and stroke increases as adults grow older.

The statement addressed obesity in older people, stating that two-thirds of seniors are overweight or obese. According to the authors, older people are particularly at risk of becoming obese because their metabolism slows down and they tend to get less physical activity.

The authors wrote that weight loss interventions have previously been effective at reducing high blood pressure, especially for older adults.

The statement also emphasized managing cholesterol in order to prevent heart disease. The authors referenced previous studies in which cholesterol management led to lower rates of stroke and heart disease-related death.

Diabetes is also a concern for older people, the authors wrote, because aging often results in less sensitivity to insulin, a substance that regulates blood sugar. Additionally, people with diabetes are at an increased risk for other health problems, including heart problems.

The statement recommended close monitoring of blood sugar and lifestyle changes for older adults who are overweight.

In 2008, 54.3 percent of men and 28.9 percent of women 65 years old and older were former smokers, which may increase their risk of certain heart health problems. The authors of the report recommended smoking cessation programs for people who still smoke, although such programs have not yet had much success for older adults.

The statement discussed various prevention techniques for older adults, like cardiac rehabilitation, or a structured exercise plan.

Implantable defibrillators have also been effective in preventing sudden cardiac death, according to the authors.

The statement also emphasized that older patients may have different preferences than middle-aged patients when facing a heart health problem. For example, seniors may be less willing to make lifestyle changes or undergo surgical procedures later in life.

Additionally, the American Heart Association emphasized the need for doctors to know what kind of prescription and non-prescription drugs and treatments their older patients are taking. The authors noted that older patients are more likely to be taking multiple medications, so doctors should consider medication interactions and ask patients about any natural supplements they are taking.

The authors of the statement also recommended improving health literacy for older adults. In other words, seniors should be more educated about their health and the advantages and disadvantages of different treatment options.

The statement also recommended more research on heart disease treatment options and their effectiveness, benefits and risks for older adults.

The statement was published in Circulation on October 28. It was funded by the American Heart Association. The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 28, 2013