Top 8 Myths About Cardiovascular Disease in the Elderly

Top 8 Myths About Cardiovascular Disease in the Elderly
Written by Medhaavi Mishra

According to WHO, 17.9 million people die annually from cardiovascular diseases. In 2020, 697,000 people died of cardiovascular diseases in the United States, making it the leading cause of death for Americans, irrespective of gender and ethnic group.

So, how well do you know about cardiovascular disease? These are multiple diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels and include illnesses such as coronary heart disease, arrhythmia, heart failure, myocardial infarction, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Relying on untrustworthy information has made it hard for people to make various lifestyle changes to manage the disease.

In this article, we will set the record straight and discard all the myths and misconceptions you have about cardiovascular disease and how it affects the elderly.

1. Cardiovascular Disease is Only an Elderly Problem

This is a common myth among young people, especially those who overlook cardio exercises. While the risk of cardiovascular diseases increases as you age, you can still suffer from heart disease at a young age.

The truth is that some cardiovascular diseases are congenital, such as atrial septal defect, which is diagnosed at birth. Other cardiovascular problems, such as arrhythmia, heart valve issues, and cardiomyopathy, may arise at any age.

For example, pediatric arrhythmias are common as they account for at least 55.1% of the 100,000 cases evaluated in pediatric emergency departments.  

Your lifestyle choices can also lead to heart problems while you are young. For instance, you may suffer from cardiovascular diseases if you are an active smoker and eat unhealthy foods.

While cardiovascular diseases are common in older people, it does not mean that if you do not take various precautions as a teenager, you will not have similar heart problems.  

2. Cardiovascular Diseases Only Affects Aged Men

Some older women assume that they should only worry about other diseases due to their advanced age, but not cardiovascular disease. However, the reality is that heart diseases are gender-neutral.

In the United States, 21.8% of females suffered from cardiovascular diseases compared to 24.2% of males in 2017. Irrespective of the percentage difference between both genders, this difference is negligible. So, don’t assume that heart disease is a problem only for elderly men.

The only difference is in the symptoms. Men experience common symptoms, such as chest pains and arm pain. In contrast, women who suffer from heart attacks may have flu-like symptoms.

The final verdict is that even though more men suffer from cardiovascular diseases, it does not mean that women are in the clear. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed because they may not present with the standard symptoms.

3. You Would Know If You Had Cardiovascular Disease

Some people assume that it is easy to identify the symptoms of cardiovascular disease as they age, so they do not take any precautions.

The truth is that high blood pressure is one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and you may not experience any symptoms. In many cases, individuals realize that they have heart disease when they suffer from a life-threatening problem, such as a stroke or a heart attack.

However, by going for regular cardiovascular screening, you can monitor the numbers and ensure you are healthy.

If you care for an aged loved one, you should enroll in BLS training. It will help you recognize various life-threatening problems, give appropriate chest compressions, and use ventilation effectively.

4. Symptoms Like Shortness of Breath and Fatigue Are Common in Old People

The reality is that your body changes as you age. You will no longer have the same reflexes you had when you were young, and your body will not be as strong.

Shortness of breath and fatigue may be common among the elderly, but they may be a symptom of cardiovascular disease. You should specifically watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Chest pains.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Incredible weight gain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Heart palpitations.

Seek a doctor immediately if you notice either of these symptoms or if your aged loved one has them.

5. Old People Should Avoid Exercising, Especially Those with Cardiovascular Disease

This myth stems from two misconceptions. First, people assume that older people should not exercise since they are weak and risk falling. Second, others assume that exercises are not ideal for someone with cardiovascular disease, especially if they are old.

However, these beliefs are not true. First, older people should exercise regularly to boost their health. This entails less rigorous exercises, such as water aerobics, chair yoga, brisk walking, and tai chi. These exercises will strengthen their muscles and improve their balance.

Second, one should exercise regularly, especially if they have cardiovascular disease. You need to exercise because the heart is a muscle that you must keep in shape.

Every time someone with heart disease exercises, they engage the blood vessels to supply blood to the heart. This improves the heart’s vascular function, which ensures your heart has adequate blood flow.

However, see a doctor before exercising, especially if you have a cardiovascular problem.

6. Cardiovascular Diseases Only Affects African Americans, and Other Ethnicities Cannot Get It

This is a common misconception among other ethnicities, especially non-Hispanic people. The reality is that African Americans are more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases because:

  • They don’t have money for health insurance. 
  • They live in poverty.
  • They have high rates of obesity.

However, even though African Americans are more likely to get cardiovascular diseases, this is also a problem for other ethnicities.

For example, based on the CDC report on cardiovascular cases, between 1999 and 2017, 208 black Americans per 100,000 died of heart disease, while 168 whites per 100,000 died from the same illness.

This shows that other ethnicities are not safe even though more African Americans die from heart disease. Ultimately, it indicates that cardiovascular disease is colorblind since it affects people of all races.

7. It Is Normal for an Old Person to Experience Pain in the Legs, and It Isn’t Heart Related  

Leg pain is common among the elderly, and many assume it is a sign of aging or fatigue.

However, experiencing leg pain in the muscles may be a sign of peripheral arterial disease. This issue arises if your vessels are blocked, preventing blood transportation from the heart to the legs.

Those with peripheral arterial disease are more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke. Visit a doctor if you experience leg pain constantly because you may have a cardiovascular problem.

8. You Do Not Have Cardiovascular Disease If You Have Never Had a Heart Attack

This misconception is common; people assume that a heart attack is a symptom of cardiovascular disease.

However, a heart attack is one of the types of cardiovascular disease. If you do not suffer from a heart attack, it doesn’t mean that you may not have other heart diseases.

For instance, you may suffer from heart arrhythmia, an example of cardiovascular disease. Some symptoms are anxiety, shortness of breath, and a heartbeat that varies quickly from fast to slow.

The only way to certify that you do not have cardiovascular disease is to undergo screening.

Final Thoughts

Cardiovascular disease is a common illness. Some people die from this disease because they lack the right information.The reality is that this disease can affect anybody, even though it is common among the elderly.

The best solution is to go for cardiovascular screening to ensure you manage the issue early.

Author Bio for Kate Macmorn

Kate Macmorn

Communications Director


Kate is the communications director for the American Medical Resource Institute, where they’ve trained over a million healthcare professionals to study for, earn and maintain life support certifications that allow them to better respond to cardiac emergencies. When not in the office, you can find Kate practicing her tennis skills. She also frequents live music venues and is always looking for her next creative hobby.

About the author

Medhaavi Mishra