While genetic factors play a large role in the aging process, environmental factors like diet, exposure to pollutants, micro-organisms, exercise, and ionizing radiation are also important. It is a reason why people of similar ages have different physical appearances and physiologies.
Even without any disease, the body can change its structure and function. Having a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease.
If you want to your heart better, Keep reading resTORbio’s article, you will know How Is The Cardiovascular System Affected By Aging? and the way to prevent it.
How Does the Heart Work?
Anatomy of the heart, including the atria and ventricles, blood flow, and valves. Normal, healthy adult hearts are about the same size as your fist. The heart is the engine that makes your car run.
Each side of the heart has a top chamber (atrium) and a bottom chamber, called the ventricle. The right side pumps oxygen-rich blood to the lungs.
The left side takes oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps the blood through the arteries throughout the body. The heart is controlled by an electrical system that controls heartbeat and pulse. It also coordinates contractions of its top and bottom chambers.
The cardiovascular system
The body’s main transport system, the cardiovascular system, is its largest. It is responsible for transporting oxygenated blood, nutrients, and chemical signals (such as hormones) to organs and tissues. It transports carbon dioxide to your lungs and other waste products such as urea, uric acid, and phosphorous to your kidneys for elimination. It is a key component of thermoregulation, which distributes and dissipates heat throughout the body (Marieb & Hoehn 2015).
A healthy and long-lasting life depends on a strong cardiovascular system. However, as we age, our efficiency decreases which can hurt other organs.
The heart has a pacemaker system that regulates the heartbeat. One pathway of this system can develop fibrous tissue or fat deposits. Some cells are lost by the natural pacemaker, known as the sinoatrial (or SA node). This may cause a slower heartbeat.
Some people experience a slight increase in size, particularly in the left ventricle. Despite an increase in the overall size of the heart, the heart wall thickens. This means that the chamber may be able to hold less blood. The heart might fill slower.
The electrocardiogram (ECG) of an older, normal person may be slightly different from that of a younger adult. This is because of heart changes. Atypical rhythms (arrhythmias) are more common in seniors. Many types of heart disease can cause these irregular rhythms.
The normal changes to the heart include deposits and lipofuscin, an aging pigment. The cells of the heart muscle cells begin to degenerate. The heart’s valves, which regulate blood flow direction, become thicker and stiffer. Valve stiffness can cause a heart murmur in older adults.
Our arteries are flexible and compliant from birth, which allows for optimal cardiac function and blood flow.
Blood is forced into the systemic and pulmonary circuits by contraction, and larger elastic arteries expand to reduce blood flow resistance. Our blood vessels, especially arteries, lose their flexibility, and arterial walls become thicker and stiffer as we age.
The tunica inner is the innermost layer in a blood vessel, and it consists of two regions:
The endothelium is a single layer of cells.
Lamina is a thin layer made up of connective tissue. It anchors the endothelium above the tunica media (muscle) layer. It mainly contains collagen and elastic fibers.
Larger arteries have high elastin levels because they must stretch in harmony and contract with the powerful heart contractions to absorb the pulse wave. This smoothens out blood flow through the smaller arteries. The vessels walls of smaller arteries contain less elasticity and more collagen fibers (Steppan et al., 2011).
Smooth muscle cells make up the tunica media. It is located underneath the tunica Intima. The vasomotor center in the medulla oblongata, the lower part of the brain stem, controls it. Marieb and Hoehn (2015).
There is a gradual thickening in the tunica media and tunica intima of large and small-sized arteries (Fig. 1). This is associated with an increased number and density of collagen fibers within the vessel walls (Ferrari et al., 2003).
Cross-linking is another process that makes collagen fibers less flexible. Elastin, which partially gives the arterial walls their elasticity, can fracture or fatigue with age and repeated stretching (Greenwald 2007).
Altering blood vessels can also show varying degrees of calcification. These events can lead to a loss of elasticity over time, and stiffening of the blood vessels, which can often be seen in high blood pressure (Bolton & Rajkumar 2011, 2011).
The blood vessels’ most delicate and sensitive part, the endothelium (Marieb & Hoehn 2015). It comprises one layer of epithelial cells squamous that are smooth and regular in young and old, minimizing resistance to blood flow.
As the body ages, it develops irregularly shaped cells. This is due to smooth muscle fibers that have migrated into the tunica media. This thickening causes a decrease in arterial compliance and elasticity and reduces the lumen size (Fig 1), which further increases resistance to blood flow.
Atherosclerosis is the most common type of blood vessel disease. It can be caused by injury to the endothelium. There are many causes, including:
- Toxins (for example, cigarette smoke)
Monocytes (white blood cells) are responsible for atherosclerotic Occlusion (fatty deposits). They attach to damaged or irritated endothelium and cross into the tunica media. These monocytes mature and grow into larger cells called macrophages (Galkina & Ley, 2009).
The macrophages take in fat, including cholesterol, from the blood and ‘puff it up to make foam cells. These foam cells create ‘fatty plaque’, which clogs blood vessels (Libby et al., 2011).
Coronary artery disease may be caused by atherosclerosis in the coronary vessels. Myocardial infarction is a condition where the fatty plaque ruptures. The risk of stroke is dramatically increased by atherosclerosis in the cerebral or carotid arteries.
The heart’s ventricles must pump more force to overcome decreased elasticity and resistance to blood flow due to occluded and aged arteries. Hypertrophia occurs in the myocardium, which is the muscular layer of your heart.
An earlier ultrasound study suggested that the left ventricle thickness increases by about 30% between 20 and 80, along with a gradual increase in cardiac mass (Pearson et al. 1991). Recent research has challenged the validity of certain of these studies.
The autopsy of the hearts revealed no evidence of age-related thickening. However, in some cases, there was a reduction in muscle mass in men. Ultrasound scans show that a thickening primarily causes hypertrophy in the intraventricular septum.
This seems to be more common than the left ventricle. Strait and Lakatta (2012) suggest a remodeling of cardiac muscle tissue and redistribution with age.
Through apoptosis (programmed cells death), the number of cardiac myocytes (muscle cells) in the myocardium gradually decreases. The remaining myocytes also undergo morphological changes.
They can become enlarged (cellular hypertrophy) or have irregular shapes. As we age, the amount of collagen in our myocardium increases. This, along with the redistribution in cardiac muscle mass, typically results in a change in the shape and appearance of the heart.
Hypertension patients are more likely to experience damage to their heart’s internal structures, leading to calcification or fibrous scar tissue. This can lead to stenosis, which is a narrowing of the aperture of the valve.
This reduces blood flow and decreases the efficiency of the heart. A turbulent blood flow is common in stenosed valves, which can be detected using a stethoscope (Bolton & Rajkumar 2011, 2011).
Both the vasculature and the heart are affected by these changes, leading to a decrease in inefficiency. While the resting heart rate of a person lying down remains relatively constant, it decreases when they sit (Bolton & Rajkumar 2011, 2011).
A decrease in maximal heart rate during exercise is one of the most noticeable changes in cardiac function due to age. After vigorous exercise, young, healthy children experience a maximum heart rate of 220 beats per hour (bpm). This falls with age. It is roughly the same as the formula 220 minus the age in years.
So, at 60, it is approximately 160 bpm. This is believed to be due to changes in the heart’s conductive systems as the ventricles fill less with age due to increased collagen content (Strait & Lakatta 2012).
Cardiac conductive systems
The sinoatrial (the natural pacemaker of the heart) has lost between 50-75% of its cells by fifty. The number of cells in atrioventricular nodes remains fairly constant. Still, there is fibrosis, cellular death, and the bundle of His, which are heart muscle cells specializing in electrical conduction.
These changes could reduce the efficiency and speed of cardiac conduction, which can lead to a decline in maximum heart rate (Ferrari and al., 2003). A decrease in pacemaker cells makes ventricular and atrial arrhythmias more likely. An example is atrial fibrillation in older adults.
The average systolic blood pressure in men increases with age, reaching 126mmHg for those aged 25 and 140mmHg for those over 60. This could be due to decreased elasticity and increased lumen diameter in the arterial tree, and associated structural changes to the heart.
Further, peripheral resistance increases as small arterioles and arteries become less responsive to vasodilators like nitric oxygen. Recent research also shows an age-related increase in the renin-angiotensin system. This causes an increase in the powerful vasoconstrictor Angiotensin II, which raises blood pressure (Harvey and al., 2015).
If there is no pathology, diastolic Pressure (when the ventricles relax) does not change with age. It may even decrease (Steppan and al., 2011).
Baroreceptor response reduced
Blood pressure drops when blood flows to the lower extremities from a posture change (e.g., if you move from a sitting position to standing). The baroreceptors in the carotid sinus and aortic arch detect hypotension immediately. This causes the cardiac in the Medulla Oblongata to increase the heart rate. Marieb and Hoehn (2015).
Baroreceptor reflexes become less sharp in older adults. This can lead to increased blood pressure variability throughout the day and possibly a decrease in blood pressure after blood losses (Monahan 2007).
The ability of baroreceptors, which measure blood pressure within a vessel, to accurately measure it may be affected by age-related thickening. This could increase the chance of falling due to postural hypotension.
Coronary artery disease can cause angina (chest pain due to temporarily reduced blood flow) and shortness of breath when exerted. A heart attack may also result.
A variety of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) can occur.
Anemia can occur due to malnutrition, chronic infection, blood loss from your gastrointestinal tract, and other complications of certain diseases or medications.
Hardening of the blood vessels is a common condition called arteriosclerosis. Plaque deposits fatty plaque buildup in the blood vessels can cause them to narrow and block completely.
Older people are also at high risk for congestive heart disease. Congestive heart disease is ten times more common in older adults than it is in younger adults.
Coronary artery disease can be quite common. It’s often caused by atherosclerosis.
As we age, orthostatic hypotension and high blood pressure are more common. High blood pressure is more common in older people who are taking blood pressure medication.
It is important to consult your doctor to determine the best way for you to manage it. Too much medication can cause low blood pressure, which could lead to a drop.
These heart valve diseases are quite common. The most common heart valve disease among older adults is Aortic Stenosis. This refers to a narrowing of the aortic canal.
If blood flow to the brain is interrupted, transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) or strokes may occur.
The following are other problems that can affect the heart and blood vessels:
- Blood clots
- Deep vein thrombosis
Claudication is a condition that causes intermittent pain in the legs due to peripheral vascular disease.
Aneurysms can develop in any of the major arteries, including the brain. Aneurysms can be defined as an abnormal swelling or widening of an artery due to weakness in the blood vessel wall. Aneurysms can cause bleeding or even death if they burst.
Your circulatory system (heart, blood vessels) can be improved. High blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and smoking are all risk factors for heart disease.
You should eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and keep your weight under control. For high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes treatment, consult your doctor. Stop smoking.
Men aged 65-75 who have ever smoked need to be checked for aneurysms, usually by ultrasound.
Get more exercise
- Exercise can help you lose weight and control your blood sugar.
- Exercise can help you keep your skills as high as possible and reduce stress.
- Moderate exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your heart and your entire body. Before you start a new exercise routine, consult your doctor. You should exercise moderately, within your abilities, and you should do it often.
- Exercisers tend to have lower body fat and smoke less than those who don’t exercise. They are also less likely to develop high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Regular check-ups are important for your heart.
- Every year, have your blood pressure checked. Your blood pressure should be closely monitored if you have heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, or any other condition.
- Your cholesterol level should be checked every five years if it is not high. Your cholesterol levels may need to be monitored closely if you have diabetes, heart disease, or kidney problems.
Staying active at all ages to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system is also an ideal way to slow down the body’s aging. We hope that our article can help you learn more about the cardiovascular system to protect your health better.
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