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Heart Health

Aging can cause changes in the heart and blood vessels. For example, as you get older, your heart can’t beat as fast during physical activity or stress as when you were younger. However, the number of heart beats per minute (heart rate) at rest does not change as you age.

Many of the problems older people have with their heart and blood vessels are really caused by disease, not by aging. For example, an older heart can normally pump blood as strong as a younger heart; less ability to pump blood is caused by disease. But, changes that happen with age may increase a person’s risk of heart disease. The good news is there are things you can do to delay, lower, or possibly avoid or reverse your risk.

A common problem related to aging is “hardening of the arteries,” called arteriosclerosis (ahr-teer-ee-o-skluh-roh-sis). This problem is why blood pressure goes up with age.

Age can cause other changes to the heart. For example:

  • Blood vessels can become stiffer, and some parts of the heart wall will thicken to help with blood flow.
  • Your valves (one-way, door-like parts that open and close to control the blood flow inside your heart) may become thicker and stiffer, causing leaks or problems with pumping blood out of the heart.
  • The size of the sections of your heart may increase.


Other factors, such as thyroid disease or chemotherapy, may weaken the heart muscle. Things you can’t control, like your family history, might also increase your risk of heart disease. But even so, leading a heart-healthy lifestyle might help you avoid or delay serious illness.


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NIH: National Institution on Aging

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