The Effects of Aging on the Cardiovascular System


The cardiovascular system is the heart and the blood vessels that pump blood throughout the body. This system carries oxygen and nutrients to the cells of the body and carries away waste products. Changes occur in both the blood vessels and the heart itself as the body ages. These changes force the heart to work harder and to be less efficient.

The Heart

  • As age increases, the heart cannot respond to an increased workload as quickly as it once did. This decrease in response occurs because the heart muscle loses elasticity and becomes stiffer and more rigid. The heart cells have a lowered ability to use oxygen. This can cause dizziness and loss of balance. Most often this is noticed when there is sudden movement, a quick change of position or exertion.

The Blood Vessels

  • As the body ages, the arteries lose some of their elasticity and become less pliable and smaller. This causes the heart to work harder to push the blood through the arteries to the body, resulting in decreased blood flow to the organs such as the brain, as well as an increase in blood pressure. Veins also suffer some changes that weaken the walls and valves of the vessels, making older people more prone to varicose veins. The smooth inner lining of all blood vessels becomes a bit rough as the body ages, leaving a body more prone to blood clots or thromboses.

The Blood

  • The composition of the blood itself changes as a person ages. There is a reduction in the volume of red blood cells. There is also a more likely chance of a blood clot because the blood is able to pool in some areas due to structural weaknesses of the blood vessels.


  • It is still not clear of all these changes are strictly due to aging or if they are also caused by a longer exposure to things such as poor dietary choices, cigarettes, lack of exercise, and environmental pollutants. Older people who are in better shape tend to have more efficient cardiovascular systems.


  • While it is impossible to prevent aging, it is possible to increase your cardiovascular health. This can be accomplished by maintaining a healthy weight, following a nutritious diet, and exercising regularly. Making smart lifestyle choices is important throughout a lifetime to help ensure cardiovascular health as a person ages. There are many older, fit people who have better cardiovascular health than younger people who have made poor lifestyle choices.


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