January 11, 2005
Hearts Age More Slowly In Women Than In Men

Women have longer life expectancies than men in industrialized countries. Slower aging of hearts is one reason for greater female longevity. (same article here)

Research by exercise scientists at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) may have an answer to the age old question of why women live longer than men.

On average, women live longer than men and women over 60 are now the fastest growing cohort in today’s ageing society. LJMU’s findings show that women’s longevity may be linked to the fact that their hearts age differently to men’s and do not lose their pumping power as they get older.

David Goldspink, LJMU’s Professor of Cell and Molecular Sports Science explains: “We have found that the power of the male heart falls by 20-25% between 18 and 70 years of age. In stark contrast, over the same period there was no age-related decline in the power of the female heart, meaning that the heart of a healthy 70 year-old women could perform almost as well as a 20 year-old’s. This dramatic gender difference might just explain why women live longer than men.”

The results are based on the findings of the largest study ever undertaken on the effects of ageing on our cardiovascular system. Since the study began two years ago, Professor Goldspink and a team of scientists at LJMU’s Research Unit for Human Development and Ageing have examined more than 250 healthy men and women between the ages of 18 and 80 years.

As we age the whole circulatory system deteriorates. Blood vessels become less elastic and less able to carry blood to muscles and skin.

  • Blood pressure increases both at rest and during exercise, because the large arteries become stiffer and less elastic as we age.
  • Blood flow to the muscles and skin of limbs also progressively decrease. These changes in the structure of blood vessels occur earlier in men, but women soon catch up after the menopause.

Aging pretty much amounts to going to hell in a handbasket. The spin from some quarters that it brings wisdom, maturity, and contentment is no consolation to FuturePundit. Those spinners mostly just make me feel irritated. Aging brings decline, decay, disorders, diseases, and for many people chronic pain and suffering. As Roger Waters famously put it "but you're older, Shorter of breath, and one day closer to death". We should not meekly accept this fate. We can develop the ability to repair and replace worn out parts. Aging reversal is going to come some day. The question is whether it will come soon enough for each of us and how many chronic maladies will we each have to live with for years before rejuvenation therapies are developed.

A temporary solution? Become a veteran athlete.

In a related study, Prof Goldspink found that the hearts of veteran male athletes (aged 50-70) were as powerful, if not more powerful, than those of inactive 20-year-old male undergraduates.

"The 20-25 per cent loss of power in the ageing male heart can be prevented or slowed down by engaging in regular aerobic exercise."

Okay, let us all go back in our time machines and join the pro tennis circuit when we were only 15 years old. Misplaced your time machine? Darn, I can't find mine either. Therefore we are left with only rather more pedestrian options such as get lots of exercise and eat better food. But it will be a lot easier when stem cell therapy can replace all the lost and tired heart cells and artery cells.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 January 11 02:26 PM  Aging Studies

Aahnold said at January 12, 2005 7:42 AM:

Stem cell therapy?!?

Get in da gym you girlie man!!

Rob Sperry said at January 13, 2005 10:07 AM:

I do have a time machine! It goes into the future at one second per second. I am still working on alternative rates of travel.

DigitalDjigit said at January 16, 2005 7:57 AM:

Yeah, god forbid you actually have to exert yourself. I love these techno-optimist libertarians. They go around spouting stuff like "TANSTAAFL" and then expect to be healthy through a miracle drug and not pay for the consequences of their lifestyle.

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