Heart complications, including heart attacks, become more of a risk as we age. But why is this? A team of researchers from the University of South Florida Department of Surgery set out to find the answer to why we are more susceptible to heart disease as we get older.
The discovery made by the team found that the human body, especially the heart, is dependent on the mitochondria, which is the part of the cell responsible for producing energy to maintain organ function. Inside the mitochondria is a protein called Sesn2, which plays a critical role in protecting the heart from stress.
The levels of Sesn2 tend to dimmish with age, which can weaken the heart and cause it to lose functionality over time. Researchers believe the loss of Sesn2 may be why older individuals are at a greater risk of heart attack and other heart complications.
“The age-related Sesn2 is a critical player in mitochondria,” said Dr. Ji Li, professor of surgery and molecular pharmacology and physiology. “Maintaining the cardiac Sesn2 levels could make the heart energic and against age-related heart disease.”
Patients who have experienced cardiac arrest are often treated with a stent inserted into a blood vessel or prescribed medications designed to prevent blood clots. While these treatments may offer quick relief, they have also been found to cause further injury to the heart.
Unfortunately, there are no known treatments currently available to prevent potential side effects. This is one reason why researchers believe that by focusing on Sesn2, mitochondria functional integrity can be restored, offsetting such complications.
Using biochemical analysis and high-powered microscopes, Li and his team found that a Sesn2 deficiency caused cells to die in older mice, which lead to a heart attack. The process of confirming these results on human hearts is now underway. Experts hope to have these findings available in the next couple of years.
The data available on the significance of Sesn2 to the cells indicates that stabilizing the protein could be the answer to maintaining a healthy heart as we age. This study also helps to advance the development of new therapeutic treatments, which could include a pharmacological approach or gene therapy.
Until these results are found in human studies, treatments for Sesn2 proteins will not be made available. Therefore, it is essential to keep the heart healthy through aging in other ways. The key to this lies in some easy lifestyle changes.
Make sure you fit exercise in everywhere possible. You should aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week, or 30 minutes a day. Eating a healthy diet can also benefit the heart. So, include generous helpings of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet and limit the amount of sugar and processed foods.
Be sure to get enough sleep and cut down your alcohol intake and quit smoking. With these easy changes, your heart can continue to be healthy and cut down on your risk of cardiovascular events.