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Chapter: Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology: The Heart

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Aging and the Heart

The heart muscle becomes less efficient with age, and there is a decrease in both maximum cardiac output and heart rate, although resting levels may be more than adequate.

AGING AND THE HEART

 

The heart muscle becomes less efficient with age, and there is a decrease in both maximum cardiac output and heart rate, although resting levels may be more than adequate. The health of the myocardium depends on its blood supply, and with age there is greater likelihood that atherosclerosis will narrow the coronary arteries. Atherosclerosis is the deposition of cholesterol on and in the walls of the arteries, which decreases blood flow and forms rough surfaces that may cause intravascular clot formation.

 

High blood pressure (hypertension) causes the left ventricle to work harder; it may enlarge and outgrow its blood supply, thus becoming weaker. A weak ven-tricle is not an efficient pump, and such weakness may progress to congestive heart failure; such a progres- sion may be slow, or may be rapid. The heart valves may become thickened by fibrosis, leading to heart murmurs and less efficient pumping. Arrhythmias are also more common with age, as the cells of the con-duction pathway become less efficient.

 

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