Vascular aging, a determinant factor for cardiovascular disease and health status in the elderly, is now viewed as a modifiable risk factor. Impaired endothelial vasodilation is a early hallmark of arterial aging that precedes the clinical manifestations of vascular dysfunction, the first step to cardiovascular disease and influencing vascular outcomes in the elderly. Accordingly, the preservation of endothelial function is thought to be an essential determinant of healthy aging. With special attention on the effects of aging on the endothelial function, this review is focused on the two main mechanisms of aging-related endothelial dysfunction: oxidative stress and inflammation. Aging vasculature generates an excess of the reactive oxygen species (ROS), superoxide and hydrogen peroxide, that compromise the vasodilatory activity of nitric oxide (NO) and facilitate the formation of the deleterious radical, peroxynitrite. Main sources of ROS are mitochondrial respiratory chain and NADPH oxidases, although NOS uncoupling could also account for ROS generation. In addition, reduced antioxidant response mediated by erythroid-2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) and downregulation of mitochondrial manganese superoxide dismutase (SOD2) contributes to the establishment of chronic oxidative stress in aged vessels. This is accompanied by a chronic low-grade inflammatory phenotype that participates in defective endothelial vasodilation. The redox-sensitive transcription factor, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), is upregulated in vascular cells from old subjects and drives a proinflammatory shift that feedbacks oxidative stress. This chronic NF-κB activation is contributed by increased angiotensin-II signaling and downregulated sirtuins and precludes adequate cellular response to acute ROS generation. Interventions targeted to recover endogenous antioxidant capacity and cellular stress response rather than exogenous antioxidants could reverse oxidative stress-inflammation vicious cycle in vascular aging. Lifestyle attitudes such as caloric restriction and exercise training appear as effective ways to overcome defective antioxidant response and inflammation, favoring successful vascular aging and decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Keywords: Arterial aging; Endothelial dysfunction; Inflammation; Nitric oxide; Nuclear factor-κB; Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species; Sirtuins.
Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.