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J Geriatr Cardiol. 2011 Dec;8(4):230-42. doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1263.2011.00230.

Nitric oxide and geriatrics: Implications in diagnostics and treatment of the elderly.

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  • 1Texas Therapeutics Institute, Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 1825 Pressler St. 530C, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

Abstract

The nation's aging population is growing rapidly. By 2030, the number of adults age 65 and older will nearly double to 70 million. Americans are living longer and older adults can now live for many years with multiple chronic illnesses but with a substantial cost to health care. Twenty percent of the Medicare population has at least five chronic conditions i.e., hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, etc. Studies in experimental models and even humans reveal that constitutive production of nitric oxide (NO) is reduced with aging and this circumstance may be relevant to a number of diseases that plague the aging population. NO is a multifunctional signaling molecule, intricately involved with maintaining a host of physiological processes including, but not limited to, host defense, neuronal communication and the regulation of vascular tone. NO is one of the most important signaling molecules in our body, and loss of NO function is one of the earliest indicators or markers of disease. Clinical studies provide evidence that insufficient NO production is associated with all major cardiovascular risk factors, such as hyperlipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and severity of atherosclerosis, and also has a profound predictive value for disease progression including cardiovascular and Alzheimers disease. Thirty plus years after its discovery and over 13 years since a Nobel Prize was awarded for its discovery, there have been no hallmark therapeutic breakthroughs or even NO based diagnostics. We will review the current state of the science surrounding NO in the etiology of a number of different diseases in the geriatric patient. From these observations, it can be concluded that enzymatic production of NO declines steadily with increasing age in healthy human subjects. Implementing strategies to diagnose and treat NO insufficiency may provide enormous benefit to the geriatric patient.

KEYWORDS:

Alzheimer's disease; bloodflow; cardiovascular disease; circulation; nitrate; nitrite

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