How Genetics May Influence Vascular Aging

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How Genetics May Influence Vascular Aging

Date of Content: May 10, 2024
Written by: Harvey Talento
Reviewed by: Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD


What is Vascular Aging?

Vascular aging is a natural process that occurs as people age, leading to changes in the arterial structure. These changes include:

This process may begin at an early stage of life and its effects are often experienced at the age of 30. Gradual progression occurs throughout the process and normally affects vascular function, especially in large and small arteries. Vascular aging is a common risk factor for the elderly for cardiovascular diseases and can be measured by assessing arterial stiffness, often using pulse wave velocity.

Vascular aging

Causes of Vascular Aging

The main contributors to vascular aging include:

Oxidative stress and proinflammatory signaling are known factors that promote arterial stiffness, leading to increased vascular resistance and organ dysfunction. Cellular senescence and the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) also play pivotal roles in vascular aging.

While some factors like age are non-modifiable, most causes of vascular aging are related to lifestyle and can be mitigated through healthy behaviors. Understanding the mechanisms and risk factors is crucial for developing strategies to prevent and treat vascular aging and associated cardiovascular diseases.

Effects of Vascular Aging on Wellness

The effects of vascular aging on wellness have significant implications for cardiovascular health and overall well-being. Key factors include:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, and stroke
  • Reduced blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues and organs due to impaired vascular function
  • Accelerated cellular aging and increased inflammation in the vascular system
  • A potential decline in exercise capacity and cardiovascular performance because of changes in heart function and blood vessel responsiveness

Understanding the effects of vascular aging on overall wellness is essential for developing strategies to reduce its impact and promote healthy aging. Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management, can significantly help maintain vascular health and overall well-being as the body ages.

Genetic Factors Influencing Vascular Aging

Genetics plays a significant role in vascular aging, as evidenced by a recent genome-wide association study (GWAS) in little over 1,000 Koreans ages 50 and above. The study identified 60 suggestive genes associated with vascular aging, many of which are involved in key pathways related to cardiovascular health:

  • Angiogenesis and proliferation/differentiation of blood vessels (ADAM12, AXIN2, PDLIM5, WNT4, etc.)
  • Inflammatory responses in the blood vessel system (CASP12, PFKP, HDAC4, TAB2, etc.)
  • Cardiovascular diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and stroke (PDLIM5, HDAC4, AXIN2, TLE1, etc.)

The study found that individuals with a higher cumulative number of protective alleles from certain SNPs in these 60 genes had attenuated vascular aging, as measured by reactive hyperemia index (RHI). This suggests that genetics can influence the rate of vascular aging.

Further analysis showed differential expression of some candidate genes like the TLE1 in aged endothelial cells, providing a potential mechanism for how genetic variants may impact vascular aging at the cellular level.

In summary, this GWAS highlights the polygenic nature of vascular aging, implicating genetic variants in pathways regulating angiogenesis, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease risk. Genetic predisposition appears to be an important factor in determining an individual’s rate of vascular aging. Further research is needed to fully elucidate the complex genetic architecture underlying this process.

Non-Genetic Factors Influencing Vascular Aging

Vascular aging is influenced by various factors beyond genetics, which can be broadly categorized into lifestyle habits, and environmental factors:

Lifestyle Habits

  • Diet: Consuming a poor diet, especially one high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats, can accelerate vascular aging by promoting inflammation, oxidative stress, and endothelial dysfunction.

  • Physical inactivity: Leading a sedentary lifestyle can speed up vascular aging by reducing blood flow, increasing inflammation, and disrupting the balance of factors that control blood vessel dilation and constriction.

  • Smoking: Tobacco smoke contains many toxins that can damage the blood vessel lining, promote inflammation, and hasten vascular aging.

Environmental Factors

  • Air pollution: Exposure to air pollutants, such as particulate matter, can cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and damage to the blood vessel lining, contributing to vascular aging.

  • Stress: Chronic stress can trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response, increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and vascular resistance, all of which can accelerate the progression of vascular aging.

How to Prevent Vascular Aging

There are several strategies to prevent or delay vascular aging:

Lifestyle Modifications

  • Diet: A healthy diet low in processed foods, unhealthy carbohydrates, and saturated fats can help prevent vascular aging by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Foods like olive oil and its extracts have been shown to have anti-vascular aging effects.

Pharmacological Interventions

Certain drugs and supplements may help prevent vascular aging:

  • Dietary supplements, including resveratrol, COQ10, and folate, have shown promise in reducing biomarkers of aging and maintaining arterial function. 
  • Senolytics and senomorphics target specific signaling pathways (like PI3K/Akt, SASP, eNOS, ATM/ATR, and oxidative stress) and may have anti-vascular aging effects.

The best evidence-based strategies to prevent vascular aging include regular aerobic exercise, a nutritious and healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight. Pharmacological interventions and novel lifestyle approaches may provide alternatives for those unable to adhere to conventional healthy behaviors.

About the LifeDNA Aging Report

Unlocking the secrets of our genetic makeup can be a powerful tool in understanding and managing our health. With the LifeDNA Aging Report, you can dive deep into your genetic blueprint and gain invaluable insights into how your unique body ages over time.

One of the standout features of this premium report is its comprehensive coverage of vascular aging traits. Understanding how your vascular system ages is crucial, as it directly impacts your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cognitive decline, and other age-related health issues. By accessing the Vascular Aging trait report within the LifeDNA Aging Report, you’ll gain personalized insights tailored to your genetic predispositions, empowering you to take proactive steps toward optimizing your vascular wellness.

Don’t wait until health issues arise—empower yourself with the LifeDNA Aging Report today and take control of your aging process like never before.


  • Vascular aging is a natural process that occurs as people age, leading to changes in the arteries such as increased stiffness, endothelial dysfunction, thickening of artery walls, and elevated blood pressure. This process affects the entire vascular system and is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Measurement techniques like pulse wave velocity help assess vascular aging.
  • The known causes of vascular aging include oxidative stress, inflammation, cellular senescence, telomere attrition, and unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking and poor diet. Mechanical stress and chronic diseases like diabetes also contribute to arterial stiffness and dysfunction. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial for prevention and treatment strategies.
  • Vascular aging significantly impacts cardiovascular health, leading to increased risk of diseases like hypertension and stroke, reduced blood flow, cellular aging, and decline in exercise capacity. Lifestyle changes including exercise and a balanced diet can mitigate these effects and promote healthy aging.
  • Genetics plays a significant role in vascular aging, as evidenced by genome-wide association studies identifying genes involved in angiogenesis, inflammation, and cardiovascular diseases. Individuals with protective genetic variants may exhibit attenuated vascular aging, highlighting the importance of genetic predisposition.
  • Beyond genetics, lifestyle habits like diet, physical inactivity, and smoking, as well as environmental factors such as air pollution and chronic stress, contribute to vascular aging. Addressing these factors through lifestyle modifications and environmental changes is key to prevention.
  • Preventing vascular aging involves lifestyle modifications including regular exercise, a healthy diet, weight management, and avoidance of smoking. Pharmacological interventions and supplements like resveratrol, COQ10, and folate may also help preserve arterial function. These evidence-based strategies offer avenues for maintaining vascular health and promoting healthy aging.



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*Understanding your genetics can offer valuable insights into your well-being, but it is not deterministic. Your traits can be influenced by the complex interplay involving nature, lifestyle, family history, and others.

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