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Age independently predicts poor outcome in a variety of medical settings, including sepsis, trauma, severe burns, and surgery. Because these conditions are associated with oxidative stress, we hypothesized that the capacity to constrain oxidative insult diminishes with age, leading to more extensive oxidative damage during trauma. To test this hypothesis, we used suprasystolic inflation of an arm blood pressure cuff to safely induce localized forearm ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) and quantified plasma F(2)-isoprostane (IsoP) levels in serial blood samples. Before I/R, IsoP levels were similar in young (20-33 years) and older adults (62-81 years). After I/R challenge, the magnitude and duration of increased IsoP levels was significantly greater in older adults. Because aging is associated with declining levels of sex hormones that contribute to the regulation of antioxidant enzyme expression, we then examined the response to I/R in older women receiving hormone replacement therapy and found that these women did not manifest the amplified IsoP response found in untreated older women. These findings demonstrate that aging impairs the ability to restrain oxidative damage after an acute insult, which may contribute to the increased vulnerability of older adults to traumatic conditions and establishes a useful method to identify effective interventions to ameliorate this deficiency.