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May 10, 2017

Quality of Life as a Key Goal for Older Adults with Heart Disease

Maintaining independence should be a key goal of treatment, argue experts.

Helping older patients with heart disease maintain their independence may be just as, if not more, important than other more complex measures of health, argue experts in a recent statement from the American Heart Association.

Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this statement served as a reminder to providers about the importance of quality of life in older adults with heart disease. The goal was to highlight the connection between overall physical function and outcomes in older adults with heart disease, and to provide more practical recommendations for therapy in these patients.

As authors explain, Americans now live 30 years longer than they did in the early 1900s. By 2050, experts expect that one in four Americans will be 65 years or older. The challenge is that health problems become more common as we age, and these issues can take a toll on quality of life, especially in patients with heart disease. It’s important that providers consider these more basic outcomes when treating elderly patients with heart disease.

In the recent statement, experts highlight the connection between physical function and key outcomes like heart events and death. There’s no question that heart disease can lead to a decline in fitness and physical function, especially in older adults. Research shows that poorer physical function is associated with worse outcomes in patients with heart disease.

As a result, experts argue that physical function, rather than more complex metrics of health, are most important in elderly adults with heart disease. For example, rather than testing peak oxygen levels during exercise, providers should focus on simpler metrics like strength, balance and even cognition. Helping older patients improve these factors should also be a key goal of treatment, as they impact both outcomes and quality of life.

Of course, that’s not to say that more complex tests may not be useful for many patients with heart disease. But based on the latest statement, the importance of helping older patients maintain their independence and physical function cannot be overlooked.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Does age impact risk for heart disease?
  • Yes, there are certain risk factors associated with heart disease that we can’t control, including age. As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases. It’s especially important to address any risk factors that you can control, such as high blood pressure or lack of physical activity, in order to reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • What are the benefits of physical activity?
  • Regular physical activity has a wealth of benefits, such as reducing risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, cancer and heart disease. Exercise can also increase energy, improve mood, and promote better sleep. Regular physical activity is a key component of a healthy lifestyle.

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