The influence of the vascular system on the coupling of cerebral blood flow (CBF) to focal brain activation during aging is incompletely understood. Using functional transcranial Doppler sonography and a hypercapnic challenge as a marker of intact cerebral vasoreactivity, we determined CBF velocity (CBFV) changes in response to a language and arithmetic task in a group of 43 healthy young subjects (mean age 32 ± 8.6 years), 18 healthy old subjects (mean age 64 ± 9.8 years) and 29 old subjects with risk factors for an atherosclerosis (mean age 69 ± 8.4 years). Despite a similar performance during the cognitive tasks the CBFV changes were significantly lower in the group of old subjects with vascular risk factors compared with the healthy young and old subjects. Similarly, the CBFV changes during hypercapnia were significantly lower in the group of old subjects with vascular risk factors compared with the healthy young and old subjects. In contrast, both cognitive tasks and hypercapnia produced comparable CBFV changes in the group of healthy young and old subjects. These results suggest that the hemodynamic response to neuronal activation is unaffected by aging alone, whereas the presence of cardiovascular risk factors significantly diminishes the capability of cerebral vessels to react to vasodilating stimuli.