Modulatory influences on ageing of the vasculature in healthy humans

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Increased arterial stiffness and impaired vascular endothelial function are the two most clinically important events that occur with vascular ageing in humans. Together they contribute to age-associated increases in systolic hypertension, left ventricular remodeling and diastolic dysfunction, coronary artery and other atherosclerotic vascular diseases, congestive heart failure, and the attendant cardiac events such as myocardial infarction. However, there is marked individual variability in arterial stiffness and endothelial function with advancing age, which suggests modulation by one or, more likely, several biological and/or lifestyle factors. Consistent with this idea, habitual aerobic exercise appears to attenuate or completely prevent these adverse changes. Other factors including sex hormone status, circulating total and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels, total body and abdominal fatness, and dietary sodium intake also appear to influence arterial stiffening and endothelial dysfunction with ageing. It is now clear that a number of physiological factors and lifestyle behaviors collectively determine how much and, perhaps in some cases, if functionally or clinically significant vascular ageing occurs in adult humans. Of these, the existing evidence indicates that habitual aerobic exercise may be the single most important modulatory influence.

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