Wear and tear, cell regeneration and impact on heart health
Most people pretty much accept the inevitable decline in heart health as they age, believing that the heart (just as the rest of the body) wears out with time. It is almost expected that your heart, as you get older, will start changing for the worse – the cardiac muscle is expected to thicken (and weaken at the same time), arteries – to stiffen and overall cell regeneration process – to slow down. The implied lack of exercise at an older age makes these processes accelerate even further.
This grim picture, however, doesn’t have to be your reality.
It is true that myocardium cells may not possess the same remarkable regenerative capacity as liver cells, for instance (although they do, of course, regenerate following normal cell death), but as long as you can prevent current cells from dying too quickly – you can extend the lifespan of the whole heart. The rules we discussed in relation to overall aging prevention apply equally when trying to prevent premature aging of the heart.
As with most organs, aging of the heart means the loss of ability of myocardium cells to divide and replicate (at least, at a rate that surpasses the rate of normal cell death). And the factors that drive this are the same as what we have previously discussed – excessive free radical damage, inflammation and muscle atrophy. If you prevent these generally (by making slight adjustments to your lifestyle and diet) – you will keep your heart young, strong and healthy.