How does age relate to cardiovascular disease?
As you get older, your risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) increases. Between the ages of 50-94 years of age, the risk of developing CVD is 46% and the risk of dying from heart disease is 31% among women. The changes your body undergoes in the aging process, while obvious from the outside — in the form of wrinkles, softer muscles, and grey hair — are not visible on the inside. But these internal changes — decreased bone density, narrowing arteries — are by far the more critical ones in terms of your health.
Major changes take place throughout your body as you age, whether you notice them or not. It’s a normal process, and nothing can stop or reverse it. Aging is linked to cardiovascular disease because major organs, such as the heart, also change as you grow older. Your heart functions less efficiently and your heart rate slows, pumping blood through the body at a slower rate. Even in the absence of disease, your heart muscle gets weaker and its pumping chambers may become stiff.
CVD becomes a bigger threat after the age of 65 for women, but this doesn’t mean your risk only begins at that age. Plaque buildup, which contributes to CVD, begins in childhood. The buildup becomes more severe with age because there has been more time for the arteries or vessels that deliver blood to the heart to become clogged.
While the majority of CVD deaths occur after age 55, the risk for CVD is set early on, through behaviours and lifestyle habits that begin in childhood and continue into adulthood. Obesity, unhealthy eating, and lack of physical activity are all major CVD risk factors and can begin before the age of 10. Unhealthy eating and lack of exercise can lead to childhood obesity, increasing the risk for heart disease. This is a major concern as obesity rates are rising among the young and the onset of cardiovascular disease is showing up earlier.