CARING FOR AN AGING HEARTAging is inevitable. Many of us try to slow it down or look for ways to hide it on the outside (some more extreme than others), but despite our best efforts, it’s our organs on the inside that need the attention, particularly the heart. Our heart is an amazing workhorse. Without even thinking about it, this fist sized organ will beat an astonishing 100,000 times a day and around 2.5 billion times in an average lifetime! We would only be so lucky if our appliances or cars last 10 years working at that pace. Unfortunately, all of that beating to keep us alive does not come without its normal wear and tear issues over time. “As we get older, our heart tends to enlarge slightly, the walls thicken and its chambers become slightly larger,” says Yanet Acosta, M.D. Board Certified Family Medicine Physician at Physicians Regional Medical Group. “Also, the walls of the arteries and arterioles lose their elastic tissue and become thicker which makes the vessels stiffer and less flexible.” She adds that fatty deposits can also accumulate along the artery walls and slow blood flow from the heart. These types of changes can increase the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and other cardiovascular problems.

Now the good news. Despite normal aging effects, there are things we can do about it to help avoid or slow down heart-related problems. Dr. Acosta recommends making positive changes that include regular exercise, avoid smoking and alcohol, maintain good sleep habits, eat a healthy diet, and reduce other risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. She also points out that heart care goes well beyond just the physical changes we can make to our bodies. “It is important to have a positive outlook, be optimistic, and keep connected with people,” she says. “And let’s not forget stress as it can play a large role in heart problems among older adults.” To help deal with stress, Dr. Acosta recommends regular exercise, yoga, volunteering in the community, joining support groups, and spend time with family and friends. “Family members and friends can also assist older adults in keeping communication with their doctors, accompanying them to doctor visits, and knowing their illness symptoms and medical treatments,” she adds.

As our heart ages and changes with our bodies, so does the methods of treatment should the need arise. This is especially true when it comes to medications. “As we get older, there are many changes in body composition such as the increase of body fat, decrease in lean body mass, and the decrease in total body water. All that changes affect the medication’s distribution and can significantly increase concentration that may cause adverse reactions in the whole body,” says Dr. Acosta. Multiple medications in older adults must also be put into consideration when treating the heart.

It is important that when experiencing any symptoms of heart disease, to not delay seeking treatment. Even without symptoms or chronic disease, Dr. Acosta recommends her older adult patients to come in for a heart screening at least once a year. This allows her to complete a physical exam, review any personal or family history, social habits, any subtle symptoms, provide lifestyle recommendations, or start treatment if needed.

Dr. Acosta’s offices are located at Physicians Regional – East Naples, 4525 Thomasson Dr., Naples, FL. 34112 and Physicians Regional-Marco Island, 1839 San Marco Rd., Marco Island, FL, 34145. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 239-348-4221
or schedule online on www.physiciansregionalmedicalgroup.com.

To take a free online Heart Health Assessment, visit www.yourheartsage.com/physicians-regional.