Longevity Articles

How Your Heart And Arteries Change As You Age—and What To Do About It

How Your Heart And Arteries Change As You Age—and What To Do About It

Even as early as age 30, many people’s hearts and arteries begin to undergo detrimental changes that can increase the risk of cardiovascular conditions. These alterations can become more pronounced as we age, causing symptoms and disease to develop or progress. 

But what exactly are these changes? In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the top six ways that your heart and arteries change with age—and how lifestyle factors like nutrition, exercise, stress management, and supplements can help to slow some of this decline.

6 Ways Your Heart and Arteries Change With Age

1. Heart Muscle Elasticity Decreases

A healthy heart is elastic, able to pump blood throughout the body efficiently. With age, the heart muscles become less elastic and more rigid, affecting this blood-pumping ability. 

The heart muscle can also develop fibrous tissues, further affecting its elastic abilities. Plus, maximum heart rate decreases with age, reducing aerobic exercise capacity (meaning you can’t exercise as intensely as you used to or recover as quickly). A lower heart rate can also be caused by fat deposits developing in the sinus node (our natural “pacemaker” that controls our heartbeat) found in the heart’s right upper chamber. 

These changes occur for many people in their 50s or 60s, but overly sedentary people can see declines earlier. Staying active with age can help to slow heart muscle rigidity, preventing the heart’s left ventricle—the side that pumps oxygen-rich blood to the entire body—from losing elasticity.

2. Heart Size and Structure Change

Structural changes to the heart can occur with age, including increases in the size of the heart, thickening of the heart chambers’ walls, and stiffer heart valves. 

Our heart valves act like gates that control the direction of blood flow; when they thicken, a progressive narrowing occurs, eventually leading to a pressure overload that can cause shortness of breath and chest discomfort. Heart valve changes also lower tolerance for exercise and stress, making your heart less able to respond to these stressors.

The heart wall is made up of three layers—the endocardium, myocardium, and epicardium—which all perform distinct and essential actions in the cardiovascular system. When muscles in the heart wall thicken (known as hypertrophy), the four heart chambers can’t hold as much blood, and blood flow is obstructed.

3. Arteries Stiffen and Narrow

Many well-known cardiovascular conditions are caused by arterial stiffening or narrowing. Healthy arteries have unobstructed blood flow, branching out of the heart and getting smaller as they flow into tissues and become capillaries. Arteries and capillaries are vital for providing oxygen and nutrients to our tissues and removing carbon dioxide and waste products.

With age, arteries become stiffer due to an accumulation of calcium deposits (calcification) or fatty deposits (plaque) on the arterial walls. This can heavily restrict blood flow and cause fatal heart events. Capillary walls can also thicken, leading to a slower rate of nutrient and carbon dioxide exchange within our tissues.

Some research shows that arterial narrowing and plaque deposits can emerge as early as childhood, with a rapid increase occurring between ages 40 and 50.

4. Endothelial Dysfunction Occurs

The inner lining of our blood vessels‚ known as the endothelium, can become dysfunctional with age due to chronic inflammatory states, oxidative stress, smoking, and chronically high blood sugar. Endothelial dysfunction affects the vessels’ ability to regulate blood flow properly. 

This is closely linked to arterial stiffening, as our three main types of blood vessels are arteries, capillaries, and veins. However, endothelial dysfunction is often the step occurring before plaque builds up, making it a key event in early cardiovascular decline.

5. Metabolic Markers Change

Although it can occur at any age, many middle-to-older age adults experience drastic differences in their metabolic and lipid profiles. This includes elevated LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and insulin levels with decreased HDL cholesterol.

These changes in metabolic and lipid markers are strong risk factors for cardiovascular conditions or events. They’re also easier to regularly test in the blood compared to looking at the inner workings of the heart and arteries, making them a valuable and easy way to keep an eye on your cardiometabolic health. 

6. Blood Pressure Increases

Lastly, blood pressure tends to increase with age, which is due, in part, to many of the previously mentioned cardiovascular changes. This is because blood pressure is the pressure within your arteries, measuring how well your heart delivers blood to all of the tissues in your body.

Blood pressure is determined by your blood vessels’ elasticity and dilating capacity, your heart’s ability to pump out blood, and how thick the blood itself is. With age, we know that arteries become less elastic and more narrow, which increases the pressure needed to send blood throughout the body.

Like the metabolic markers, higher blood pressure is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular conditions. 

Ways to Slow Age-Related Changes to the Heart

While it's not always possible to completely stop or prevent some of these age-related changes to the heart and arteries, certain lifestyle choices and supplements may be able to help slow them down significantly. 

Some of the best ways to support cardiovascular health with age include:

Regular Exercise 

It’s well-known that aerobic exercise benefits the cardiovascular system. Regular cardio exercise strengthens your heart muscle, increasing the ability to pump blood throughout the body. Aerobic exercise, like walking, jogging, biking, and swimming, can increase levels of healthy HDL cholesterol, lower blood pressure over time, and support healthy blood sugar levels. It also prevents or even reverses arterial stiffness and suppresses chronic inflammatory states. 

Eat Ample Antioxidants 

Plant-based compounds called polyphenols act as antioxidants and fight oxidative stress in the body—the accumulation of inflammatory and reactive molecules that damage cells and DNA. A buildup of these harmful compounds is known to impact cardiovascular health. 

Some antioxidant-rich foods and beverages to start adding to your diet include berries, leafy green vegetables, herbs and spices, extra-virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, artichokes, beans, beets, green tea, coffee, and red grapes.

Limit Alcohol

While many people think that moderate alcohol consumption is “good for the heart,” more recent research is proving that is not true. Although some studies show that moderate alcohol intake improves some markers of heart health, like HDL levels, it also has been found to cause oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, mitochondrial dysfunction, increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, and anatomical changes to the heart and blood vessels. 

Stop Smoking

We all know by now that smoking is not good for us, but it remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Some of the reasons smoking is so harmful to the heart are because it causes DNA damage, oxidative stress, inflammatory states, increased blood pressure, thickened blood, blood clots, endothelial dysfunction, and narrowed arteries. If you currently smoke, today is the day to map out your quitting plan.

Manage Stress

Chronic stress leads to high levels of our stress hormone cortisol, which can accelerate aging and cardiovascular decline. Unmanaged stress is linked to higher blood pressure, lower HDL levels, and blood vessel constriction. 

Stress also causes increased cellular senescence—a process that causes cells to stop dividing but remain in the body, causing inflammatory reactions and damaging nearby cells, including in the heart. Although easier said than done, stress can be managed by meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, therapy, and supplements like L-theanine and 5-HTP.

Supplement Smart

  • CoQ10: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential compound made in the mitochondrial membrane that provides potent antioxidant activity, protecting cardiovascular cells from oxidative stress. CoQ10 also supports healthier inflammatory pathways and supplies the heart with some of its significant energetic needs. The driving force behind cardiac dysfunction may be inadequate mitochondrial energy production, which CoQ10 can help to support. Researchers reported in a review that CoQ10 supplementation reduced levels of cardiovascular fibrosis (scarring) in older adults, which lowered the risk of cardiovascular-related mortality.
  • Calcium-AKG: Calcium-alpha-ketoglutarate (Ca-AKG) is the supplement form of AKG—a molecule most known for its role in stimulating energy production. Ca-AKG may support heart health with age, partly due to its status as an antioxidant. One study found that supplemental Ca-AKG supported blood vessel elasticity in aged mice, while another found that AKG reduced oxidative stress and improved markers of heart structure and function in mice.
  • Trans-resveratrol: Resveratrol supports heart health by supporting healthier inflammatory responses, providing antioxidant activity, and strengthening blood vessels and arteries. In a randomized controlled trial, supplementing cardiac patients with 100 mg per day of resveratrol improved several markers of heart health, including left ventricular function (our heart’s main pumping chamber), lung capacity, exercise tolerance, and overall quality of life. 
  • Krill Oil: Krill oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support cardiovascular health by incorporating into cell membranes and protecting blood vessels, endothelial tissue, and the arteries surrounding the heart. While omega-3 fats are certainly beneficial on their own, krill oil also contains astaxanthin—a carotenoid with exceptionally high antioxidant activity. Unlike most other carotenoids, astaxanthin has a unique structure that remains both inside and outside of the cell membrane. This allows it to inhibit fat oxidation and prevent oxidative stress from all sides.
  • Hydroxytyrosol: Hydroxytyrosol is one of the primary antioxidant compounds found in olive leaf extract and olive oil—a known contributor to heart health. Some of the noted cardiovascular effects of hydroxytyrosol include protecting cholesterol from oxidative damage, maintaining normal blood pressure, and supporting healthier cardiac inflammatory responses. In a trial of adults with abnormal lipid and cholesterol levels, supplementing with hydroxytyrosol and pomegranate extract for 20 weeks led to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol and increases in HDL cholesterol, which suggests cardioprotective activity. 

Key Takeaways:

There’s no getting around the fact that some changes to your heart and arteries will occur with advancing age—but many of them can be slowed or entirely prevented by a healthy lifestyle. These factors include eating plenty of antioxidants, exercising, managing stress, and supplementing with cardioprotective compounds, including CoQ10, calcium-AKG, hydroxytyrosol, krill oil, and trans-resveratrol.

If you’re unsure which of these heart-healthy supplements you should take, chat with our free Longevity Health Pro experts to tailor a supplement plan specifically for you. 


Dyck GJB, Raj P, Zieroth S, Dyck JRB, Ezekowitz JA. The Effects of Resveratrol in [Cardiac] Patients: A Narrative Review. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(4):904. Published 2019 Feb 19. doi:10.3390/ijms20040904

Fuchs FD, Whelton PK. Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular. Hypert. 2020;75(2):285-292. doi:10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.119.14240

Gal R, Deres L, Horvath O, et al. Resveratrol Improves Heart Function by Moderating Inflammatory Processes in Patients. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(11):1108. Published 2020 Nov 11. doi:10.3390/antiox9111108

Hadi HA, Carr CS, Al Suwaidi J. Endothelial dysfunction: cardiovascular risk factors, therapy, and outcome. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2005;1(3):183-198.

Hargreaves IP, Mantle D. Coenzyme Q10 Supplementation in Fibrosis and Aging. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1178:103-112. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-25650-0_6

Hassannejad R, Sharrouf H, Haghighatdoost F, Kirk B, Amirabdollahian F. Diagnostic Power of Circulatory Metabolic Biomarkers as Metabolic Risk Predictors in Community-Dwelling Older Adults in Northwest of England (A Feasibility Study). Nutrients. 2021;13(7):2275. Published 2021 Jun 30. doi:10.3390/nu13072275

Hong YM. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular beginning in childhood. Korean Circ J. 2010;40(1):1-9. doi:10.4070/kcj.2010.40.1.1

Niemiec T, Sikorska J, Harrison A, et al. Alpha-ketoglutarate stabilizes redox homeostasis and improves arterial elasticity in aged mice. J Physiol Pharmacol. 2011;62(1):37-43.

Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018;5:135. Published 2018 Sep 28. doi:10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135

Piano MR. Alcohol's Effects on the Cardiovascular System. Alcohol Res. 2017;38(2):219-241.

Quirós-Fernández R, López-Plaza B, Bermejo LM, Palma Milla S, Zangara A, Candela CG. Oral Supplement Containing Hydroxytyrosol and Punicalagin Improves [Lipids] in an Adult Population without Co-Adjuvant Treatment: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled and Crossover Trial. Nutrients. 2022;14(9):1879. Published 2022 Apr 29. doi:10.3390/nu14091879

Romani A, Ieri F, Urciuoli S, et al. Health Effects of Phenolic Compounds Found in Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, By-Products, and Leaf of Olea europaea L. Nutrients. 2019;11(8):1776. Published 2019 Aug 1. doi:10.3390/nu11081776

Santos MA, Sousa AC, Reis FP, Santos TR, Lima SO, Barreto-Filho JA. Does the aging process significantly modify the Mean Heart Rate?. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2013;101(5):388-398. doi:10.5935/abc.20130188

Senoner T, Dichtl W. Oxidative Stress in Cardiovascular: Still a Therapeutic Target?. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2090. Published 2019 Sep 4. doi:10.3390/nu11092090

Tkachenko V, Kovalchuk Y, Bondarenko N, Bondarenko О, Ushakova G, Shevtsova A. The Cardio- and Neuroprotective Effects of Corvitin and 2-Oxoglutarate in Rats. Biochem Res Int. 2018;2018:9302414. Published 2018 Sep 3. doi:10.1155/2018/9302414

Vancheri F, Longo G, Vancheri E, Henein MY. Mental Stress and Cardiovascular Health-Part I. J Clin Med. 2022;11(12):3353. Published 2022 Jun 10. doi:10.3390/jcm11123353

Vu KN, Ballantyne CM, Hoogeveen RC, et al. Causal Role of Alcohol Consumption in an Improved Lipid Profile: The ARIC Study. PLoS One. 2016;11(2):e0148765. Published 2016 Feb 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0148765

Wu LX, Xu YY, Yang ZJ, Feng Q. Hydroxytyrosol and olive leaf extract exert cardioprotective effects by inhibiting GRP78 and CHOP expression. J Biomed Res. 2018;32(5):371-379. doi:10.7555/JBR.32.20170111

Older post Newer post