Scientists from Cambridge University, UK, have found that people with advanced heart disease have arteries with the DNA damage of people 40 years older. In other words, the arteries of a patient with advanced heart disease are biologically 40 years older than the patient. The scientists found evidence of telomere damage in the smooth muscle cells of diseased blood vessels.
You can read about this study in the journal Circulation Research.
The researchers found that the artery cells of patients with advanced heart disease were dividing up 13 times faster than they should be – in effect, accelerating their aging. Older artery cells are less effective in stopping fatty deposits from forming within the artery, causing it to narrow. Narrowed arteries significantly raise the risk of having a heart attack.
Even in early stages of heart disease the researchers found patients’ arteries were biologically 5-15 years older than the patient. They said that the aging process is exacerbated by hypertension (high blood pressure), smoking, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.
When the artery cells reach a biologically very old age there is nothing one can do, say the researchers – you cannot reverse the process. So, stopping smoking, taking steps to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, are good measures to prevent the accelerated aging process from happening in the first place.