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Mouse study shows hope for treating heart disease

June 10, 2013

As people age, they should be placing an increasing emphasis on their heart health by adopting healthier senior living habits including following better diets, getting active and visiting their doctors regularly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women, and often the risk of coronary issues increases with age. However, scientists are making headway concerning treatments for age-related heart disease.

Researchers recently studied the effects of the drug rapamycin, an FDA-approved anti-cancer and anti-proliferative medication, on elderly mice with age-related heart disease. The results, published in the online journal Aging Cell, showed that mice given the drug experienced marked recovery from symptoms such as thickened heart walls, reduced pumping efficiency and enlarged hearts after taking the medication for three months.

"When we measured the efficiency of how the heart pumps blood, the treated mice showed a remarkable improvement from where they started. In contrast, the untreated mice saw a general decline in pumping efficiency at the end of the same three-month period," said lead study author Dr. Simon Melov, a faculty member at the Buck Institute. "This study provides the first evidence that age-related heart dysfunction can be improved even in late life via appropriate drug treatment."

The findings are just the beginning, but researchers from the Mayo Clinic are already setting the stage for human trials. In the meantime, seniors and others who are living with or at risk of developing cardiovascular disease can take steps to improve their heart health. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, has been proven effective for the heart, as it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, fish and produce while eliminating unhealthy fats.