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Heart Aging: How Your Heart Changes As You Age

It’s no real surprise that as we age, our physiological processes naturally tend to slow down, and we become less functional as a result. As we age, the heart undergoes physiological changes from thickening of the heart walls, slowing of the heart rate and a reduced maximum heart capacity.

How the Heart Ages

Importance of Understanding Heart Aging

With over 2/3 of Americans wanting to know more about their heart health, understanding the factors that contribute to heart health events as we age can make a significant difference in cardiovascular health outcomes. With age we can experience decreased exercise tolerance and reduced cardiac muscle mass.

It’s crucial to understand the physiological changes that take place as you age, so you can better manage long-term cardiovascular health and help maintain cardiovasular function as you age.

Age-Related Changes in Heart Function

Structural Changes

One key structural change that we see with age is the thickening of the heart walls. The heart has three layers (the epicardium, myocardium and endocardium) and is divided into four chambers (two atria, and two ventricles). As we age, the walls of the heart chambers can thicken, leading to a reduction in the elasticity of the heart muscle. With thickening of the heart wall, the amount of blood the chamber can hold may also decrease and the heart may fill more slowly.

The left ventricle is located at the bottom left of the heart and is the thickest of all heart chambers. The left ventricle is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood through the body – in contrast to the right ventricle, which solely pumps blood to the lungs. When the already thick walls of the left ventricle become hard and stiff, making it more difficult for the heart to effectively pump blood.

Other ways in which the heartchanges in its ability to pump blood efficiently as we age include the accumulation of fibrous tissue and calcium deposits within the heart muscle and valves, leading to stiffening and reduced flexibility of these important structures.

Functional Changes From Aging

As our heart ages, functional changes including reduced elasticity and increased stiffness can reduce its ability to effectively pump blood. Both resting heart rate and heart rate variability typically decrease gradually as we age, with observational studies identifying heart rate variability as a measure to assess physical frailty.

Other functional changes include prolonged systole. As the heart beats, blood is forced up against the artery walls and when your doctor measures your blood pressure, they will be measuring this force by checking your systolic and diastolic readings.

Systolic blood pressure is the measure of blood against your artery walls (systolic) as the ventricles push blood out to the rest of the body. Diastolic blood pressure measures the period that the heart relaxes between beats, when the ventricles refill with blood.

The Role of Mitochondria in Heart Aging

Mitochondrial Function with Age

Our hearts are extremely energy-hungry organs which is why cardiac tissue is densely packed with mitochondria (organelles within almost all of our cells that provide them with energy, signaling and much more). While they provide our body with the energy required to keep our heart pumping normally, the downside is that mitochondria are also the most prolific producers of free radicals in the body. This can lead to oxidative stress, which is essentially damage to the functioning of your cells. When it comes to your heart, oxidative stress caninfluence heart cell function, heart rhythm, blood pressure, calcium signalling, and vascular health.

As we get older our mitochondria naturally start to decline in function. They become less efficient at energy production, which contributes significantly to a slower metabolic rate. Studies reveal that in older adults, mitochondria can be nearly 50% less efficient and their numbers decrease by about 20% compared to younger adults.

It is also thought that aging can impact the balance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body, increasing oxidative stress as time goes on. While this stress is inflicted at a microscopic level, over time it can bear its head in the form of signs of aging such as wrinkles, reduced energy levels and cellular efficiency, and cardiovascular function.

Consequences of Mitochondrial Aging

Endothelial function is now recognized as an independent predictor in the development of heart health changes. The endothelial lining (the inside lining of our blood vessels – arteries, veins and capillaries), helps them expand and contract, controlling blood flow and pressure. This tissue is extremely sensitive to oxidative stress, and over time, this can manifest as thickened, stiff arteries. This is why mitigating the effects of oxidative stress is crucial for keeping arteries flexible, responsive, and healthy.

Mitigating Heart Aging Through Mitochondrial Support

Strategies for Supporting Mitochondrial Health

Eat a balanced diet

When it comes to maintaining mitochondrial health, your diet plays a key role. With this in mind, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support healthy mitochondria. A well-balanced diet that includes sufficient proteins, fats and carbohydrates provides the necessary building blocks for mitochondrial function and helps protect against oxidative stress. Antioxidants, found in fruits and vegetables, help protect mitochondria from oxidative stress. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, flaxseeds and walnuts, support your cellular and mitochondrial membranes to help create energy efficiently and improve their integrity.

To promote mitochondrial health through diet:

  • Include a variety of nutrient-dense foods in your meals,
  • Prioritize whole, unprocessed foods over highly processed ones,
  • Consume a mix of carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats in appropriate proportions, and
  • Eat a colorful array of fruits and vegetables to maximize antioxidant and phytonutrient intake.

Adequate hydration

While your diet plays a key role in maintaining mitochondrial health, it’s just as important to stay adequately hydrated. Water is essential for cellular processes, and proper hydration supports mitochondrial function.

Water is a fundamental component of cellular structures and fluids. Proper hydration ensures that the cellular environment is conducive to biochemical reactions, including those occurring within mitochondria. This supports efficient energy production processes.

Prioritize sleep

As you doze, your body undergoes several important processes that are essential for overall cellular repair and maintenance, including mitochondrial health.

During sleep, the body goes through various stages, including slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These stages are associated with different physiological processes, including energy conservation and restoration. Adequate sleep allows mitochondria to efficiently produce ATP and replenish energy stores for the next day.

Sleep is also a time for cellular repair and maintenance. Mitochondria undergo repair processes during sleep, helping to correct damage caused by oxidative stress or other factors. This supports the overall health and functionality of mitochondria.

Autophagy is a cellular process that involves the removal of damaged cellular components, including old mitochondria. Adequate sleep supports the activation of autophagy, contributing to the turnover and renewal of mitochondria.

Manage stress

Chronic stress is associated with increased levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, which can contribute to oxidative stress . Mitochondria are particularly sensitive to oxidative stress, but effectively managing stress can help reduce any potential negative effects on these vital cellular organelles.

There are lots of healthy ways you can relieve stress. From practicing stress-reducing techniques like meditation, deep breathing and yoga to making time to unwind, simple steps like these can help you to deal with stress. Plus, regular exercise, quality sleep and a balanced diet are also helpful for coping with stress.

Practice resistance training

One study revealed that resistance training is not only correlated with a lower risk of cardiovascular events but also demonstrated positive effects on two types of adipose tissue that surround the heart which are key factors in heart health.

In comparison to those who didn't exercise, participants who incorporated both aerobic endurance workouts and resistance training experienced significant reductions in epicardial adipose tissue mass (that’s the fat that’s on the inner wall of the heart). Additionally, those who practiced resistance training also saw a 32% decrease in pericardial (outer) adipose tissue, while those who performed endurance training did not see any decrease. The study showed that the benefits of strength training extended beyond superficial measures.

Eat more antioxidants

Antioxidants help to protect your cells and cell structures from reactive molecules like free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). While the body produces some antioxidants naturally, we can benefit from some extra support as we age to help protect the body from oxidative stress.

Specific Interventions

There are many dietary supplements or specific nutrients that are commonly used to support heart health.

Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that has been well-studied for its ability to support longevity. In animals, resveratrol has been shown to extend the lifespan of different organisms – and there’s also research to suggest that it activates specific genes that support healthy aging. Resveratrol has been shown to support the skin, brain and our cardiovascular health among many other things.

Curcumin (the active compound found in turmeric) has been shown to support many factors that influence aging, from neutralizing free radicals and supporting oxidative stress to protecting our DNA.

One of the most important antioxidants for maintaining optimal cellular health is CoQ10 – but the body’s natural production of CoQ10 declines with age, and low levels of CoQ10 have been associated with the aging process.

Mitochondria-targeted antioxidants

An effective way to reduce oxidative stress and support heart health is by supplementing with an antioxidant. However, not all antioxidants are created equal, and for them to be most effective, they need to be able to reach the source of oxidative stress, the mitochondria.

Mitoquinol Mesylate (MitoQ) is a world-first antioxidant molecule that targets mitochondria, which are abundant in heart muscle cells and a site of free radical production. MitoQ provides free radical defenses right inside your cells, supporting a strong, healthy heart and flexible arteries. In fact, a recent clinical trial concluded that MitoQ (20mg) supports arterial health by improving arterial dilation by 42%.

How MitoQ Supports Aging Hearts

MitoQ and Mitochondrial Health

One of the key antioxidants your body produces inside the mitochondria to control free radicals is CoQ10. MitoQ is an advanced, modified form of CoQ10 that is bio-designed to be structurally smaller and positively charged to easily pass through the mitochondrial wall. Once inside the mitochondrial wall, it has been shown to increase internal antioxidant defenses by 36%, and reduces free radicals up to 48%.

Scientific Research

Mitoquinol mesylate has been shown in studies to support heart health:

  • This molecule supports healthy blood flow, healthy and flexible arteries, vasodilation (when blood vessels widen, allowing more blood flow), and overall cardiovascular health.
  • A daily 20mg serving size has been clinically shown to prevent oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant defenses by up to 36% and reducing free radicals by up to 48% post-exercise in healthy adults.
  • A recent clinical trial demonstrated that 20mg Mitoquinol Mesylate significantly supports arterial flexibility, improving arterial dilation by up to 42%, and reducing oxidative stress in healthy older adults when taken for six weeks.

Conclusion

The heart requires a huge amount of energy produced by your mitochondria. As you age, this need for energy only increases as the functionality of the heart naturally changes. Taking your daily dose of mitoquinol mesylate in combination with dietary and lifestyle changes listed above is an effective way to support your cardiovascular health from a holistic perspective. Taking care of your cells and managing oxidative stress as part of your daily routine creates a ripple effect that spills into wider areas of your health, from sustained energy and healthier aging, to better exercise recovery.

*These statements have not been evaluated by The Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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