How your heart can change with age.
Your heart is an amazing workhorse. No more than the size of your fist, this amazing muscle pumps blood throughout your entire body.
But as you age, your heart can begin to change. As you get older, your heart doesn't respond to physical activity the same way. Why?
The SA Node loses some cells. Your heart has its own natural pacemaker, also known as the SA node (SA stands for sinoatrial). The SA node helps your heart maintain its pace by generating electrical impulses throughout the heart, stimulating it to contract and pump. As you age, your SA node can lose some of its cells, which may impact heart rate.
The walls of your heart can increase in size. As you age, it's common for the walls of your heart to thicken. The thicker walls make your heart appear to be larger, especially the left ventricle. However, the thicker walls decrease the available space. When reducing your heart chamber's blood capacity, your heart may fill more slowly than before.
Your arteries become stiff. Also known as arteriosclerosis, the hardening of your arteries can lead to high blood pressure. This also becomes common with age; however, it is not necessarily a normal part of aging. The hardening of your arteries is a result of plaque build-up along the walls, resulting from many different factors, including aging.
Your valves become stiff. There are valves in your heart that act a lot like doors, controlling the blood flow. As you age, these valves become stiff, causing them to work a little harder to operate their open-close mechanisms.
Don't forget about the mitochondria.
Age can manifest in very real changes in your heart's physiology. But there are changes in your heart that occur on an even smaller scale that require attention as well.
The cells that make up your heart are the tiny unsung heroes that coordinate your heart's essential micro-operations. A large part of what fuels these cells are your mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell.
Your mitochondria produce nearly 90% of your body’s energy, and heart cells require thousands of mitochondria. Unfortunately, as you age, your mitochondria don't produce energy as efficiently.
A review from Circulation Research shows that your mitochondrial count and function in cardiac cells decline as you age. Fever mitochondria mean less energy.
You've heard it before: Eat right and exercise.
Every heart health guide will tell you to adopt a heart-healthy diet, specifically watching for foods that might raise your blood pressure and cholesterol.
These guides will implore you to limit saturated fat and trans-fat, known to raise the levels of bad cholesterol, also known as LDL, which can contribute to the build-up of plaque in your arteries. They will also suggest incorporating some form of aerobic exercise every day to train your heart like any other muscle in the body.
But did you know these healthy practices benefit your heart’s hardworking mitochondria as well?
A study by David A. Hood from York University shows that exercise can promote mitochondrial biogenesis, a process your mitochondria undertake to increase their number. Mitochondrial biogenesis increases cellular efficiency and provides better support for organs with large energy demand, like the heart.
Likewise, healthy eating habits limit mitochondrial damage by reducing the number of free radicals.
Free radicals are damaging byproducts produced by your mitochondria throughout their normal metabolic process. Typically, your body creates enough antioxidants to counter them; however, a poor diet can tip the scales and create an imbalance.
A review published in the Journal of Lipid Research shows that adopting a new eating pattern can decrease the number of free radicals.
Raise NAD+ to support your mitochondrial health.
Mitochondria churn out energy using a process called cellular respiration. A key player in this process is NAD+, a coenzyme that helps maintain mitochondrial efficiency.
Hassina Massudi and a team of researchers from the University of New South Wales discovered that NAD+ levels decline by 50% between the ages of 40 and 60.
NAD+ supplements, like nicotinamide riboside, can help maintain your NAD+ levels as you age. A clinical trial published in Scientific Reports shows daily supplementation of 300mg nicotinamide riboside significantly elevates NAD+ levels by 40-50% in whole blood after two weeks.
Studies have shown maintaining NAD+ levels is an essential component to mitochondrial health for important organs like the heart.
A pilot study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation looked at the health of mitochondria in the heart after supplementing them with nicotinamide riboside. The study observed peripheral blood mononuclear cells, or PBMCs, important monitors for heart health. The study showed the mitochondrial respiration rate of PBMCs improved following nicotinamide riboside supplementation for five to nine days.
Support your heart from big to small.
Regularly checking your blood pressure, watching your cholesterol, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercise are important steps to support your heart health. But you can always go a little farther, a little deeper.
Pay attention to your cells, the basic building blocks of your heart. Incorporating supplements like an NAD+ booster can give you additional support for one of the most essential organs in your body.