The continuous ageing of the population is a common phenomenon in the industrialized countries. According to epidemiological studies, advanced age acts as the major risk factor of the most important cardiovascular diseases. Ageing is characterized by typical physiological alterations in vascular and cardiac structure and function at both the cellular and molecular levels, which result in a progressive dysfunction of the cardiovascular system. These ageing-associated changes are themselves increasingly recognized as a "vulnerable physiological basis" on which pathophysiological disease mechanisms can become superimposed. This review focuses on the main issues of the rapidly increasing knowledge on the ageing-associated physiological changes in the cardiovascular system in apparent health. Intensive investigations in this field provide key findings that will hopefully establish effective therapies to prevent, delay or attenuate the cardiovascular diseases in the elderly.
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