The cardiovascular system in the ageing patient

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The ageing process is associated with important changes in the responses of the cardiovascular system to pharmacological stimuli. They are not limited to the arterial system, involved in the modulation of cardiac afterload and vascular resistance, but they also involve the low-resistance capacitance venous system and the heart. The main changes include loss of large artery compliance, dysfunction of some of the systems modulating resistance vessel tone, increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system, and reduced haemodynamic responses to inotropic agents. This review focuses on the effects of ageing on arterial and venous reactivity to drugs and hormones, the autonomic nervous system, and the cardiovascular responses to inotropic agents. Some of the age-related changes might be at least partially reversible. This may have important therapeutic implications.

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