Aging changes in the heart and blood vessels

Alternative Names

Heart disease - aging; Atherosclerosis - aging

Information

Some changes in the heart and blood vessels normally occur with age. However, many other changes that are common with aging are due to modifiable factors. If not treated, these can lead to heart disease.

BACKGROUND

The heart has two sides. The right side pumps blood to the lungs to receive oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide. The left side pumps oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Blood flows out of the heart through arteries, which branch out and get smaller and smaller as they go into the tissues. In the tissues, they become tiny capillaries.

Capillaries are where the blood gives up oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and receives carbon dioxide and wastes back from the tissues. Then, the vessels begin to collect together into larger and larger veins, which return blood to the heart.

Blood flow

Watch this video about:
Blood flow

AGING CHANGES

Heart:

Blood vessels:

Blood:

EFFECT OF CHANGES

Normally, the heart continues to pump enough blood to supply all parts of the body. However, an older heart may not be able to pump blood as well when you make it work harder.

Some of the things that make your heart work harder are:

COMMON PROBLEMS

Other problems with the heart and blood vessels include the following:

PREVENTION

Get more exercise:

Have regular check-ups for your heart:

References

James PA, Oparil S, Carter BL, et al. 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: report from the panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8). JAMA. 2014;311(5):507-520. PMID: 24352797 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24352797.

LeFevre ML; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(4):281-90. PMID: 24957320 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24957320.

Schwartz JB, Zipes DP. Cardiovascular disease in the elderly In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 76.

Stone NJ, Robinson JG, Lichtenstein AH, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2014;129(25 Suppl 2):S1-S45. PMID: 24222016 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24222016.

Walston JD. Common clinical sequelae of aging. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 25.


Review Date: 8/22/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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