The Cardiovascular Effects of Aging

Dr. Roger Hirchak, Vice President of Medical Services, Shell Point Retirement Community

Medical researchers have recently discovered that the elderly account for 65 percent of all cardiovascular hospitalizations and for an increasing proportion of all cardiovascular procedures.
Clearly, it is important to understand the effects of aging on the cardiovascular system.

As we age, there are diffuse changes in cardiovascular structures and function. Increased blood vessel stiffness contributes to the progressive rise in the systolic blood pressure. In turn, systolic high blood pressure is a key risk factor to developing coronary artery disease, heart failure and strokes.

Impaired filling of the heart is a hallmark of cardiovascular aging as there is an increase in the collagen deposition along with altered calcium flux leading to impaired relaxation during various cycles of the heart. Due to these alterations, there is an increase in the prevalence of both heart irregularities such as atrial fibrillation and the syndrome of heart failure.

Regular physical exercise is associated with improved health status and a sense of wellbeing in assisted living and independent living residents alike. Maintaining a physically, intellectually and emotionally active lifestyle is perhaps the best way to insure optimal quality of life.