Send to

Choose Destination
Can J Cardiol. 2016 Sep;32(9):1065-73. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2016.03.017. Epub 2016 Apr 7.

Sex Differences in the Biology and Pathology of the Aging Heart.

Author information

Department of Pharmacology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Department of Pharmacology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Department of Medicine (Geriatric Medicine), Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom. Electronic address:


The knowledge that advanced age is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) has stimulated interest in cardiac aging. Understanding how the heart remodels with age can help us appreciate why older individuals are more likely to acquire heart disease. Growing evidence in both humans and animals shows that the heart exhibits distinct structural and functional changes as a consequence of age. These changes occur even in the absence of overt cardiovascular disease and are often maladaptive. For example, atrial hypertrophy and fibrosis may increase susceptibility to atrial fibrillation in older adults. Age-dependent increases in left ventricular fibrosis, stiffness, and wall thickness promote diastolic dysfunction, predisposing to heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. The influence of age on the heart is evident at rest but is even more prominent during exercise. There is also evidence for sex-specific variation in age-associated remodelling. For instance, there is some evidence that the number of ventricular myocytes declines with age through apoptosis in men but not in women. This helps explain why older men are more likely than women to experience heart failure with reduced ejection fraction. Emerging evidence from preclinical studies suggests that frailty rather than chronological age promotes adverse cardiac remodelling. Mechanisms implicated in cardiac aging include impaired calcium handling, excessive activation of the ß-adrenergic and renin-angiotensin systems, and mitochondrial dysfunction. Further research into cardiac aging in both sexes is needed, because it may be possible to modify disease treatment if the substrate upon which the disease first develops is better understood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center