Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) remain the leading cause of death in the United States and other modern societies. Advancing age is the major risk factor for CVD, primarily due to stiffening of the large elastic arteries and the development of vascular endothelial dysfunction. In contrast, regular aerobic exercise protects against the development of large elastic artery stiffness and vascular endothelial dysfunction with advancing age. Moreover, aerobic exercise interventions reduce arterial stiffness and restore vascular endothelial function in previously sedentary middle-aged/older adults. Aerobic exercise exerts its beneficial effects on arterial function by modulating structural proteins, reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, and restoring nitric oxide bioavailability. Aerobic exercise may also promote "resistance" against factors that reduce vascular function and increase CVD risk with age. Preventing excessive increases in abdominal adiposity, following healthy dietary practices, maintaining a low CVD risk factor profile, and, possibly, selective use of pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals also play a major role in preserving vascular function with aging.
Keywords: arterial stiffness; endothelial dysfunction; inflammation; oxidative stress.
Copyright © 2014 The American Physiological Society.