The world’s population is ageing. By 2050, 21% of the population will be aged 60 and over, double the amount it was in 2013. In their quest to discover why some people live longer than others, scientists are focusing a lot of their research on diseases that become more prevalent as we age such as heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is one such disease. It is not only the most frequently diagnosed disease in people aged over 65, it is also the leading cause of death in this population. Understanding the underlying factors that contribute to heart disease may allow researchers to develop better treatment options.
Scientists know that two of the most significant factors are inflammation and oxidative stress. This review, published in the journal Cardiorenal Medicine, suggests an underlying cause of inflammation is cytokine release. Cytokines are specific substances secreted by certain cells of the immune system in response to infection and trauma. For some reason, as we get older, our bodies start releasing small amounts of these substances continuously. This low-grade release inflames the inner lining of our blood vessels, causing hardening and stiffening of the tissues hindering blood circulation through the heart and kidneys.
In addition, the review discusses how our immune system becomes less effective at clearing away damaged or dead cells with age. These waste products accumulate, causing oxidative stress. Developmental medicines that help stimulate “cleanup cells” to remove unwanted substances reverse oxidative stress and are an area of active research in patients with chronic diseases.
Leibowitz D. Left ventricular hypertrophy and chronic renal insufficiency in the elderly. Cardiorenal Med. 2014 Dec:4(3-4):168-175