Lege Artis Medicinae

[Cardiovascular aging]

VÁLYI Péter

AUGUST 20, 2016

Lege Artis Medicinae - 2016;26(07-08)

[The world population in both industrialized and developing countries is aging. The clinical and economic implications of this demographic shift are staggering because age is the most powerful risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. The incidence and prevalence of hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke increase steeply with advancing age. Although epidemiologic studies have discovered that some aspects of lifestyle and genetics are risk factors for these diseases, age, per se, confers the major risk. There is a continuum of age-related alterations of cardiovascular structure and function in healthy humans, however these alterations are not synonymous with diseases processes. Old age is not a disease. Although cardiovascular aging changes are considered “normative”, they lower the threshold for development of cardiovascular disease, and appear to influence the steep increases in hypertension, atherosclerosis, stroke, left ventricular hypertrophy, chronic heart failure, and atrial fibrillation with increasing age. Specific pathophysiologic mechanisms that underlie these diseases become superimposed on cardiac and vascular substrates that have been modified by an “aging process”, and the latter modulates disease occurrence and severity. Age-associated changes in cardiovascular structure and function become “partners” with pathophysiologic disease mechanisms, lifestyle, genetics, and other presently unknown factors in determining the threshold, severity, prognosis, and therapeutic response of cardiovascular disease in older persons. However, the role of specific age-associated changes in cardiovascular structure and function in such age-disease interactions has not been considered in most epidemiologic and clinical studies of cardiovascular disease. Quantitative information on age-associated alterations in cardiovascular structure and function in health is essential to unravel age-disease interactions and to target the specific characteristics of cardiovascular aging that render it such a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Such information is also of practical value to differentiate between the limitations of an older person that relate to disease and those that might be expected, within limits, to accompany advancing age or a sedentary lifestyle.]

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