Background: Ageing is associated with an inexorable decline in cardiac and vascular
function, resulting in an increased risk of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). Lifestyle factors such as
exercise have emerged as a primary therapeutic target in the prevention of CVD, yet older individuals
are frequently reported as being the least active, with few meeting the recommended physical
activity guidelines. In contrast, well trained older individuals (Masters athletes) have superior functional
capacity than their sedentary peers and are often comparable with young non-athletes. Therefore,
the 'masters' athlete may be viewed as a unique non-pharmacological model which may allow
researchers to disentangle the inexorable from the preventable and the magnitude of the unavoidable
'true' reduction in cardiac function due to ageing.
Conclusion: This review examines evidence from studies which have compared cardiac structure
and function in well trained older athletes, with age-matched controls but otherwise healthy.