Age May Not Doom Coronary Arteries

Coronary heart disease has long been associated with advancing age. Is the breakdown of coronary arteries inherently connected with aging? A new study of Chinese and Australian men suggests this may not be the case, reports a recent Reuters wire release. Scientists are looking further to discover why the Chinese men possessed a “protection” from artery deterioration that the Australians did not.

Cardiovascular disease, concluded the research team, “is not an inevitable consequence of aging, but might be related to prolonged exposure to environmental factors more prevalent in westernized countries than in China.”

Dr. Kam S. Woo, a researcher at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, and his team studied the capacity of the patients’ blood vessels to expand and contract in response exercise or other stress using ultrasound imaging equipment. Researchers studied 76 healthy adults; 38 from Sydney, Australia and 38 from Shek Kei, a small village in southern China. Half of the subjects were under 40 years old and half were between the ages of 55 and 70.

In younger adults from both countries, artery aging was progressing at a similar pace. In the older adults, however, the Chinese men had far less aging than the Australian men.

Researchers suggest the differences may be connected with food intake. While cholesterol levels from both groups were about even, the Chinese diet includes flavonoids, which are health-promoting antioxidants. Green tea, a traditional part of the Chinese diet, contains a flavonoid that has been shown to insulate artery walls from damage.

“If we could only find out what it is that protects the Chinese and apply it in the West, we would have a very important breakthrough,” said Dr. David S. Celermajer, of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, the senior author of the study.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, as reported in a Reuters news wire report, July 1, 1997.