Apical regions of the left ventricular myocardium of female C57BL/6J mice, aged between 6 and 27 months, that had been subjected to endurance running for 2, 10 or 15 months, were examined by light and electron microscopy. Focal degenerative changes were found in myocytes of these experimental mice, including loss of myofibrils, erosion of myo-cytes and changes in nuclei, lipofuscin content and mitochondria. The interstitial connective tissue showed an increase in collagen in aged myocardia. Endurance-trained runners frequently showed signs of platelet aggregation or microthrombi in small capillaries associated with myocytes. These were most common in endurance-trained middle-aged and very elderly mice, but were not found in sedentary age-matched controls. Our experiments indicate that running stress may be damaging to cardiac tissue in aged animals. Our findings may be of significance in helping the understanding of the development and the etiology of stress-induced cardiovascular damage in the elderly.

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