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."
And that physiological change may be an important factor in the development of high blood pressure, or hypertension, which currently affects an estimated 65 million Americans, most of them older adults, according to Farquhar.
The study, which was conducted over the past two years, was led by Farquhar and Colin Young from the University of Delaware and Michael Stillabower and Angela Disabatino at Christiana Care Health System. The results are published in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Young recently completed his bachelor's and master's degrees at UD, with Farquhar as his adviser, and is now pursuing a doctorate in physiology and pharmacology at the University of Missouri. Stillabower is a cardiologist and director of cardiovascular research at Christiana Care Health System, as well as a clinical associate professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. DiSabatino is the nurse manager at Christiana Care's cardiovascular research office.
While the arterial side of the human circulatory system has been studied extensively, Farquhar said much less research has been conducted on the venous system. Yet the veins contain approximately 70 percent of your body's total blood volume when you are at rest, and the flexibility of these blood vessels is a major factor in how much blood gets returned to your heart during the vital fluid's journey through your circulatory system.