The Relationship Between Age and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

Mom and daughter

As you get older, your risk for cardiovascular disease increases. The changes your body undergo in the aging process, while obvious from the outside — in the form of wrinkles, softer muscles, and grey hair — are not visible inside.

These internal changes — decreased bone density, and narrowing of the arteries — are the more critical ones regarding your health. 

Major changes occur 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, 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. 

When Does the Risk for CVD Begin?

CVD becomes a bigger threat after the age of 55 for men and post-menopause for women, but this doesn’t mean your risk only begins at that age. Plaque buildup, which contributes to CVD, starts 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. Heart disease can also develop in young children through defects or infections at birth. 

While the majority of heart disease 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 of 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.