, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 75-89
Date: 28 Dec 2013

Coronary heart disease risk factors in older persons

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In most Western nations, coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death and one of the most important causes of physical disability in persons over 65 years of age. The importance of traditional CHD risk factors has been well documented in middle-aged populations, whereas their role in older populations is still under debate. This paper reviews the epidemiologic evidence from observational studies and randomized clinical trials that established risk factors for CHD predict level of risk of CHD, and identify high risk individuals among older men and women. Hypertension and cigarette smoking have been clearly associated with an increased risk of CHD events, and their modification has been proven to be highly effective in the primary and secondary prevention of CHD in older persons. For other highly prevalent risk factors, such as lipid abnormalities, obesity and physical inactivity, evidence of an independent association with CHD risk has been demonstrated by the majority of observational studies. However, definitive proof from controlled clinical trials of the beneficial effects of their modification is still lacking in the older population. The role of estrogen replacement therapy in the primary and secondary prevention of CHD in older women is still an open question. In evaluating the impact of these risk factors in older persons, elements such as comorbidity, frailty, and age-related changes in risk profile should also be taken into consideration. Given the complexity of the relationship between risk factors and multiple disease statuses, other important outcomes, such as osteoporosis, cancer, falls and physical disability, should be considered when evaluating the risks and benefits of risk factor modifications in older persons.