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Hypertension. 2005 Sep;46(3):454-62. Epub 2005 Aug 15.

Arterial aging: is it an immutable cardiovascular risk factor?

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Laboratory of Cardiovascular Science, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, 5600 Nathan Shock Dr, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Age is the dominant risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. However, until recently, convincing mechanistic or molecular explanations for the increased cardiovascular risks conferred by aging have been elusive. Aging is associated with alterations in a number of structural and functional properties of large arteries, including diameter, wall thickness, wall stiffness, and endothelial function. Emerging evidence indicates that these age-associated changes are also accelerated in the presence of cardiovascular diseases, and that these changes are themselves risk factors for the appearance or progression of these diseases. In this review, the evidence demonstrating that arterial aging is accelerated in cardiovascular diseases and that accelerated arterial aging is a risk factor for adverse cardiovascular outcomes is briefly reviewed, and selected advances in vascular biology that provide insights into the mechanisms that may underlie the increased risks conferred by arterial aging are summarized. Remarkably, a host of biochemical, enzymatic, and cellular alterations that are operative in accelerated arterial aging have also been implicated in the pathogenesis and progression of arterial diseases. These vascular alterations are thus putative candidates that could be targeted by interventions aimed at attenuating arterial aging, similar to the lifestyle and pharmacological interventions that have already been proven effective. Therefore, the notion that aging is a chronological process and that its risky components cannot be modulated is no longer tenable. It is our hope that a greater appreciation of the links between arterial aging and cardiovascular diseases will stimulate further investigation into strategies aimed at preventing or retarding arterial aging.

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