Aging changes in the heart and blood vessels

Heart disease - aging; Atherosclerosis - aging

Taking your carotid pulse

The carotid arteries take oxygenated blood from the heart to the brain. The pulse from the carotids may be felt on either side of thefront of the neck just below the angle of the jaw. This rhythmic beat is caused by varying volumes of blood being pushed out of the heart toward the extremities.

Circulation of blood through the heart

The heart is a large muscular organ which constantly pushes oxygen-rich blood to the brain and extremities and transports oxygen-poor blood from the brain and extremities to the lungs to gain oxygen. Blood comes into the right atrium from the body, moves into the right ventricle and is pushed into the pulmonary arteries in the lungs. After picking up oxygen, the blood travels back to the heart through the pulmonary veins into the left atrium, to the left ventricle and out to the body's tissues through the aorta.

Radial pulse

Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the tissues of the body. Veins carry blood depleted of oxygen from the same tissues back to the heart. The arteries are the vessels with the pulse, a rhythmic pushing of the blood in the heart followed by a refilling of the heart chamber. To determine heart rate, one counts the beats at a pulse point like the inside of the wrist for 10 seconds, and multiplies this number by 6. This is the per-minute total.

Normal heart anatomy (cut section)

The normal heart viewed so that major valves can be seen.

Effects of age on blood pressure

Blood vessels become less elastic with age. The average blood pressure increases from 120/70 to 150/90 and may persist slightly high even if treated. The blood vessels respond more slowly to a change in body position.