Hardening of the arteries now linked to premature aging

MADRID, Spain — Atherosclerosis, commonly known as hardening of the arteries, can speed up the aging process, long before the onset of symptomatic cardiovascular disease, researchers say. The research done at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) used extensive data from the PESA-CNIC-SANTANDER study. This study has been analyzing the progression of subclinical atherosclerosis in over 4,000 Banco Santander employees between 40 and 54 years-old with no prior history of cardiovascular disease.

“These results underline the benefits of reducing inflammation by adopting a healthy lifestyle or taking specific medication, such as cholesterol-lowering statins,” says Dr. Valentín Fuster, General Director of CNIC.

Fuster went on to say that these interventions have the potential to impede or delay the transition from the subclinical phase of atherosclerosis to severe cerebrovascular events like heart attacks or strokes.

The study reveals a strong correlation between the presence, extent, and progression of subclinical atherosclerosis and accelerated epigenetic aging in young individuals who are otherwise healthy. Dr. Enrique Lara Pezzi, an author on the study, explained that epigenetic aging is a measure of a person’s biological age based on the epigenetic clock, which predicts aging based on DNA methylation levels. Sometimes, a person’s epigenetic age may be older or younger than their chronological age.

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A senior woman’s hands (© Evrymmnt – stock.adobe.com)

Fortunately, the study suggests that, unlike permanent genetic mutations, changes in DNA methylation can be reversed, offering the possibility of slowing down the process of epigenetic aging.

“Changes in DNA methylation are reversible, opening up the possibility of ‘slowing down’ our epigenetic aging,” Lara Pezzi notes in a media release.

Further analyses using transcriptomic and proteomic data revealed that systemic inflammation triggered by a high burden of atherosclerotic plaques plays a crucial role in accelerating epigenetic aging.

While the study establishes a strong association between subclinical atherosclerosis and accelerated epigenetic aging, the authors acknowledge the need for long-term follow-up studies with more experimental data to better understand the effects of atherosclerosis on health and life expectancy, as well as to identify underlying mechanisms.

The findings of this study shed light on the importance of early detection and intervention in subclinical atherosclerosis, reinforcing the significance of adopting a healthy lifestyle and appropriate medical interventions to mitigate the impact of this silent but potentially harmful condition on overall health and aging.

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.

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  1. Aging is a function of time since birth. There are correlations between age and diseases, but no cause and effect. Age does not cause anything.

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