System that regulates blood pressure may also affect aging

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. The same system that regulates blood pressure may also play a role in aging, according to new research from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

Four separate studies point to the renin-angiotensin system, which helps regulate blood pressure, as also being important in body composition, mental function and how the body responds to exercise. The work, presented today in Washington, D.C., at the 57th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society of America.

"This is exciting because it suggests that a whole new mechanism might be involved in aging," said Stephen Kritchevsky, Ph.D., professor of gerontology. "It offers new opportunities to explore treatments to help older adults maintain their function."

A primary component of the renin-angiotensin system is ACE, or angiotensin converting enzyme, which converts angiotensin I, an inactive protein in the blood, to angiotensin II, a protein that constricts blood vessels. Angiotensin II is balanced by another hormone that is believed to "brake" high blood pressure.

"It's becoming apparent that this system is involved in more than just blood pressure," said Kritchevsky.

The Wake Forest Baptist research is the first to show that the system may be associated with physical function in older adults. The projects are:

  • Mobility and ACE A common variant of the gene that controls ACE production can be inherited in three different combinations. In a study that involved more than 3,000 well-functioning adults, ages 70 to 79, researchers investigated how the variant affects response to exercise. Half of the group was active, burning more than 1,000 calories a week in exercise; the other half was inactive.

    All exercisers had better mobility than non-exercisers, but exercisers who had the gene combination associated with the lowest ACE production were 47 percent more likely to become limited in their mobility than exercisers with the

  • 22-Nov-2004

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