LEARNING OBJECTIVES • What age-related changes occur in the cardiovascular system? What types of cardiovascular disease are common in adult development and aging? What are the psychological effects of age-related changes in the cardiovascular system?

• What structural and functional changes occur with age in the respiratory system? What are the most common types of respiratory diseases in older adults? What are the psychological effects of age – related changes in the respiratory system?


teve is an active 73-year-old man who walks and plays golf regularly. He smoked earlier in his life, but he quit years ago. He also watches his diet to control fat intake. Steve recently experienced some chest pains and sweating but dismissed it as simply age-related. After all, he thinks, I take care of myself. However, Steve’s wife, Grace, is concerned he may have a more serious problem.

Two of the systems that are essential to life are the cardiovascular system and the respiratory sys­tem; that’s why they are called vital functions. Each undergoes important normative changes with age that can affect the quality of life. In this section, we’ll find out whether Grace has reason to worry about Steve’s symptoms. We’ll also discover why figuring out the pattern of age-related changes in the respi­ratory system is very difficult (here’s a tip—it has to do with biological-psychological-environmental interactions). Overall, the age-related changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems are excellent examples of how the forces of development interact. On the biological front, we know that some cardio­vascular and respiratory diseases have important genetic links. Psychologically, certain personality traits have been linked with increased risk of disease. Socioculturally, some cardiovascular and respira­tory diseases are clearly tied to lifestyle. The impact of both cardiovascular and respiratory diseases also differs as a function of age. Let’s explore in more detail how these various forces come together.