US scientists have made new discoveries about the effect of the ageing process on the heart.
A team from St Hopkins found that for every year a person ages, the time it takes for their heart muscles to expand and contract takes between two and five per cent longer.
They also found that the heart's pumping function declines slightly every year, as the heart cavity shrinks and its walls widen. Heart muscle mass decreased by on average 0.3 grams annually.
Senior researcher Dr Joao Lima said: "This study highlights how the ageing heart's anatomy and function change hand in hand over time, similar to arteries stiffening, bones weakening from loss of calcium, and kidney function declining.
"Physicians and patients need to recognise it as a process that can be accelerated by risk factors or possibly slowed down by healthy lifestyle choices and sound medical care."
The scientists now hope to develop biological markers to track the effects of ageing on heart shape and function.
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