Age-Related Changes in the Microcirculation of Skeletal Muscle

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Summary

The age-related reduction in exercise capacity is associated with a reduction in cardiac output and maximal oxygen consumption (Vo2max). The loss of muscle mass explains a large portion of the age-related decline in Vo2max. The capillary supply to a muscle fibre is primarily determined by its size, but also by its metabolic profile and the metabolic profile of surrounding fibres. Thus the age-related fibre atrophy and changes in the fibre type composition are expected to be accompanied by changes in the capillarisation. The exchange of oxygen, blood-borne energy sources, metabolites and heat between the blood and muscle tissue takes place in the microcirculation. Changes in the microcirculation may thus affect the functioning and viability of the muscle. The resting blood flow is minimally affected by age, but blood flow during or following exercise is generally reduced. This may in part be due to a reduced vasodilatory capacity and a decreased capillarisation. However, the coupling between capillary supply to a fibre and its metabolic profile or the profile of the surrounding fibres is maintained. There are some changes in ultrastructure of the endothelium. The age-related changes in the microcirculation are associated with a reduced Vo2max and exercise capacity. The adaptability of the microcirculation is maintained at old age.