Study leader Dr. Susan Cheng, a former medicine resident at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues, analyzed more than a half-dozen measurements of heart structure and pumping function to assess minute changes in the hearts of 5,004 men and women, ages 45 to 84 -- with no existing symptoms of heart disease.
Test results were obtained from study participants who had undergone magnetic resonance imaging of the heart, which measured individual muscle segment changes with each heartbeat.
The study found that each year as people age, the time it takes for their heart muscles to squeeze and relax grows longer -- by 2 percent to 5 percent.
"It’s an amazing piece of the puzzle of heart failure that finally singles out the effects of age over better-known risk factors such as high blood pressure in otherwise healthy people and regardless of race," Cheng said in a statement.
The finding were presented at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions in Orlando, Fla.