Can your arteries tell your age? by Professor Gerald Meininger -24th February 2020

Gerry Meininger is an Emeritus Professor and Investigator at the Dalton Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Missouri – Columbia.  He is a very dis­tin­guished speaker who has had a large volume of work pub­lished and has lec­tured all over the world.  Now retired he lives in Sheffield.

The goals of his present­a­tion were to intro­duce his audi­ence to the Cardiovascular System with a little his­tory, a few fun facts and an explan­a­tion of big and little ves­sels.  Next to explain ageing and car­di­ovas­cu­lar change fol­lowed by some of the cur­rent research.  Luckily for the Probus Club, his present­a­tion is clearly struc­tured by many bril­liant PowerPoint slides that illus­trate his entire talk.

The earli­est writ­ings on the cir­cu­lat­ory system were in Egypt in 16th Century B.C. when it was thought that air breathed into the lungs then flows into the arter­ies.  The heart was the seat of emo­tions, wisdom and memory.  William Harvey (1578–1657) declared that the blood cir­cu­lates con­tinu­ously one way around the body.

The aver­age heart is the size of a fist in an adult and it beats 70 to 80 times per minute.  This equates to 115,000 times each day or 2.5 bil­lion times over 75 years.  The heart expels 4 litres per minute and there are only 5 litres of blood in the body.  The cir­cu­lat­ory system in our bodies stretches 66,000 miles.  Capillaries are tiny and are about a tenth the dia­meter of a human hair.

Gerry explained what is meant by large arter­ies are elastic, medium arter­ies are mus­cu­lar and the smal­lest arter­ies are arteri­oles.  He covered the aging effects on elastic arter­ies and on aortic stiff­en­ing and its impact on heart func­tion with enlar­ging the heart.


During ageing the large vas­cu­lar ves­sels get stiffer caus­ing hyper­ten­sion and dia­betes.  This effects 1 in 3 people glob­ally.  It also effects the elastic and res­ist­ance of ves­sels.  Aortic stiff­en­ing pre­cedes many med­ical con­di­tions and acts as a pre­dis­pos­ing factor.

Gerry explained the cur­rent hypo­theses about causes of aortic stiff­ness and his recent research into muscle cell ima­ging and topo­logy using atomic force and con­focal micro­scopy.

This was some talk and the Club was very priv­ileged to have enjoyed it.