October 31, 2006
Veins Stiffen With Age

Veins get stiffer as we age just as arteries do.

As if creaking joints and hardening of the arteries weren't bad enough, a research team from the University of Delaware and the Christiana Care Health System in Newark has now confirmed that even our veins stiffen as we age.

“When you are young, your veins are nice and elastic--like rubber bands,” William Farquhar, a cardiovascular physiologist in UD's College of Health Sciences, said. “But as you grow older, we've found that your veins become more like lead pipes.”

70% of your blood is in your veins but veins have been less studied than arteries. Well, veins age too and become less able to stretch to increase blood volume.

To determine if there are age-related differences in how our veins work, the research team recruited 24 people for their study--12 healthy young adults between the ages of 18 and 30, and 12 healthy older adults between 60 and 70 years old. Each individual underwent medical screening at Christiana Hospital, which included a lipid profile, blood pressure monitoring, electrocardiogram and several other tests to ensure overall good health.

Then each participant was involved in a series of research trials at UD's Human Performance Lab on the Newark campus. While each subject lay resting on a gurney, various gauges, connected to computers, were placed on their arms and legs. An arterial cuff was attached to an upper arm to monitor blood pressure, and venous cuffs were placed around the upper thigh and upper arm to measure the blood flow to the limbs.

As the cuffs were inflated over an eight-minute period, and then slowly deflated to let blood escape from the limbs, the blood volume was measured, recorded, and graphed. The consistently lower blood volume under pressure pointed to the less springy veins of the older participants.

So what causes vein stiffening with age? Increased thickness is one possibility. Another possibility is either less nitric acid to signal them to dilate or fewer or impaired receptors for the nitric acid dilation signal. Still another possibility is scar tissue.

Yet another possibility is chemical crosslinks called advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). The AGEs (also known as advanced glycosylation end-products) are obvious targets for drug development and a company called Alteon has been developing AGE breakers ALT-711 and alagebrium , drugs aimed at breaking AGE bonds in order to make aged tissues more flexible again.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 October 31 08:51 PM  Aging Mechanisms

rsilvetz said at October 31, 2006 9:52 PM:

Add TGF-beta as another big culprit. A lifetime of a fibrotic cytokine gives stiff everything, not just veins. ACE and angiotensin receptor blockers tend to lower TGF-beta as a side-effect, another reason for going on the hypertensive blockers as one ages...

Ok, back to handing out candy...

Brett Bellmore said at November 1, 2006 3:47 AM:

I was under the impression that ALT-711 turned out to be a dud in clinical trials; Didn't do a thing to lower blood pressure.

Randall Parker said at November 1, 2006 5:09 PM:


Alteon thinks their drug alagebrium might work if combined with exercise.

PARSIPPANY, N.J., Sept. 27, 2006 (PRIMEZONE) -- Alteon Inc. (AMEX:ALT) announced today that a Phase 2 clinical study of alagebrium, a novel Advanced Glycation End-product (A.G.E.) breaker, will be conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas as part of a five-year $3.1 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. alagebrium will be studied as a novel intervention when combined with exercise training with the goal of significantly improving cardiac compliance and diastolic function in aged individuals. Demonstrating an ability of alagebrium to reverse deficits attributable to aging and sedentary lifestyle would be supportive of Alteon's development efforts for alagebrium in diastolic heart failure (DHF).

This is plausible because increased blood flow itself sends signals to vein and artery cells. Maybe the drug can get rid of the junk and then the exercise can work.

They say this drug works against chronic heart failure:

Phase 2 clinical data on alagebrium presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in November 2005, demonstrated the ability of alagebrium to improve overall cardiac function, including measures of systolic and diastolic function. In those studies, alagebrium also demonstrated the ability to significantly reduce left ventricular mass and improve cardiac structure and function in patients with chronic heart failure (Thohan, V. et al. AHA, 2005). alagebrium has been tested in multiple Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials in approximately 1,000 patients, which represents a sizeable human safety database. In recent preclinical studies, treatment with alagebrium in a rat model of aging-associated cardiovascular dysfunction indicated effects similar and additive to that of exercise in reversing age-related cardiac dysfunction.
Brett Abbott said at November 2, 2006 3:25 PM:

I take 14 pills a day and I am 52 to lower my BP. I know what tight veins feel like. One day on my motorcycle I could feel my juggler veins "juggling" in the wind. they felt like big plastic tubes on each side of my head. That is why I cannot get mad at anything anymore, no road rage no nothing. I feel like sleeping all the time. I remember when I was 18 and I really enjoyed that feeling listening to Jimmy Hendrix Electric Ladyland. Now I am there but can forget about the fun, I don't look so good anymore and one of the "side effects" is decreased sex drive. Good thing I am single. I used to think that girls did not want sex, but now they feel like unwanted unless they get it all the time. Times have changed and one big vein has not gotten harder but just the opposite. I would probably pop if I tried to hard, after all like one lady said "it's not your fault, and besides I like you for what you are". I wish I could agree. My dog has more fun than I do now.

Rob said at October 15, 2009 3:15 PM:

I have a 26 year old friend who has already had a heart attack 3 years ago an has just recently had a stroke and from what doctors have so far figured out is that her veins are aged. They say her veins look similar to an 70-80 year old. do you have any thought to why this may have happened to such a young, full of life type of person such as my friend?

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