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.