American Academy of Health and Fitness
FITNESS SPECIALTY CERTIFICATIONS AND CONTINUING EDUCATION HOME STUDY PROGRAMS
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IN THIS SECTION
Integumentary (Skin) System
Skeletal System
Muscular System
Nervous System
Endocrine System
Cardiovascular System
Lymphatic (Immune) System
Respiratory System
Digestive System
Urinary System
Reproductive System


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Cardiovascular System

The main function of this system is the internal transport of cells and dissolved materials, including nutrients, wastes, and gases.

Differences between cardiovascular functioning in older and younger persons have been extensively quantified. However, interactions between age, disease, and lifestyle are often overlooked. Whether the high prevalence of cardiovascular disorders such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, and heart failure is due to an aging process or whether these disorders merely occur more frequently in elderly persons because of a longer exposure to risk is not yet established. It is reasonable to ascertain, however, that the capabilities of the cardiovascular system gradually decline with age.

 

Not so fun fact:

The 25% reduction in maximum cardiac output that occurs with aging is completely due to the age-associated reduction in maximum heart rate.


Fun fact:

Older people in good physical condition can match or exceed the aerobic capacity of unconditioned younger people.

Age-related changes in the blood include a decrease in the volume of packed red blood cells or constriction or blockage of peripheral veins by a blood clot. Also, there might be pooling of blood in the veins in the legs because valves are not working effectively.

Age-related changes in the heart include a reduction in maximum cardiac output, changes in the activities of nodal and conductive fibers, a reduction in the elasticity of the heart’s fibrous tissues, progressive atherosclerosis (fatty buildup or plaques) that can restrict coronary circulation, and replacement of damaged cardiac muscle fibers by scar tissue.

Age-related changes in blood vessels are often related to arteriosclerosis, a thickening and toughening of arterial walls in which the walls become less tolerant of sudden increases in pressure.

Aging affects aerobic capacity and cardiovascular performance during exercise. Peak exercise capacity and peak oxygen consumption decrease with age, but there is great variation from one individual to another. Aerobic capacity decreases by 50% between ages 20 and 80.

Physical conditioning appears to lessen the vascular stiffening associated with aging since stiffening is increased by only about half as much in endurance-trained elderly persons as compared to sedentary ones. Exercise can also improve the aerobic capacity of older persons by increasing cardiac output and oxygen utilization.

 
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