Cardiovascular diseases are the most prominent maladies in aging societies. Indeed, aging promotes the structural and functional declines of both the heart and the blood circulation system. In this review, we revise the contribution of known longevity pathways to cardiovascular health and delineate the possibilities to interfere with them. In particular, we evaluate autophagy, the intracellular catabolic recycling system associated with life- and health-span extension. We present genetic models, pharmacological interventions, and dietary strategies that block, reduce, or enhance autophagy upon age-related cardiovascular deterioration. Caloric restriction or caloric restriction mimetics like metformin, spermidine, and rapamycin (all of which trigger autophagy) are among the most promising cardioprotective interventions during aging. We conclude that autophagy is a fundamental process to ensure cardiac and vascular health during aging and outline its putative therapeutic importance.
Keywords: autophagy; caloric restriction; cardiovascular diseases; heart; longevity.