The hemostatic system through aging and menopause

  • Bucciarelli P
  • Mannucci P
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The process of aging is accompanied by several modifications in the hemostatic system at different levels (blood coagulation, fibrinolysis, platelet activity, vascular endothelium). These changes may explain the higher incidence of arterial and venous thrombosis in the elderly compared to young people. Genetic and environmental factors modulate in different combinations the expression of proteins involved in the hemostatic process. Among the latter, diet and smoking habits play an important role, as well as physical exercise and, for women, hormonal status. A gradual and progressive development of a low-grade inflammatory state (clearly demonstrated in the elderly) is also an important factor that influences hemostasis during aging. In spite of the fact that the increased hypercoagulable state observed with aging may account for the higher incidence of thrombosis in the elderly, the finding of a similar pattern of coagulation activation in healthy centenarians suggests that a hypercoagulable state is compatible with health and longevity. Taking also into consideration that no laboratory parameters of hemostasis are predictive of thrombosis on an individual basis, a physician's behavior towards aging patients (e.g. prescription of hormonal replacement therapy to a woman during menopause) should not be affected by laboratory tests, but mainly by a patient's clinical history and the presence of strong risk factors for thrombosis other than age (e.g. diabetes mellitus, arterial hypertension, dyslipidemia, obesity, smoking)

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