Anti-aging secrets for healthy arteries

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Anti-aging secrets for healthy arteries

Gracefully aging arteries should be one of our top health goals. However, our ability to see, feel, or assess the health and well-being of our arteries is difficult to tell.  What we do know is that as we age, so do our arteries. 

Over the years and especially past the age of 50, our arteries can go from being supple and pliable to becoming more rigid and stiff.  This inflexibility is usually from plaque buildup and calcification which can significantly raise our risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease. But, thanks to a recent study published in Hypertension, it does not look to be too late to reverse course as healthy vascular or blood vessel aging may be possible even for people 70 and older.   Luckily, there are certain lifestyle factors we each can practice to slow down the effects of aging arteries.

What the study focused on

Maintaining healthy arteries throughout our lives may have big payoffs.  Since it is rare for individuals living in the Western world to have healthy arteries past the age of 50, the aim of this new study was to focus on people with healthy arteries to begin with.  What were they doing to keep their arteries young and flexible? 

The researchers checked how peoples’ arteries were aging at the start of the study by looking at their blood pressure and pulse wave velocity, which is a marker of artery stiffness.  If a person did not have hypertension and a pulse wave velocity of a 20-30 year old (less than 7.6 meters per second), they were considered to have healthy vascular aging.

But if they had a pulse wave velocity which was fast, that indicated they had stiff and aging arteries. Having slow pulse waves is preferred since this means a person’s arteries are soft and elastic, essentially young.

Anti-aging secrets for arteries

An interesting finding from the study was that genetics did not seem to play a role in stiffening our arteries.  Primarily, what appeared to be the driving factor in helping our arteries to remain youthful was living a healthy lifestyle.

To help assess a person’s lifestyle, the participants in the study took the American Heart Association’s “Life’s Simple 7” test.  This test focuses on seven aspects of a heart-healthy lifestyle.  If a person scores six of the goals listed, they were 10 times more likely to have healthy vascular aging compared to people who met none of only one of the goals.  The seven Life’s Simple steps included the following:

1.  Lose weight if overweight – Reaching a healthy body weight can help reduce developing many chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, gout, sleep apnea, and gallbladder disease. 

2.  Reduce blood sugar Take steps now to reduce highly refined, overly processed and sugary beverages to help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes

3.  Eat better – To understand and know how to eat a healthier diet, follow the MyPlate method on how to do so. 

4.  Be physically activeAdults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate to intense aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups. 

5.  Manage blood pressure – In November, 2017, new blood pressure guidelines came out which is now 130/80 which is down from the previous 140/90.  Reduce sodium intake by following the DASH diet, reach and maintain a healthy body weight, and exercise regularly. 

6.  Control your cholesterol – Aim to eat between 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each and boost heart healthy omega-3 intake by eating fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, halibut, sardines) twice a week.

7.  Avoid smoking – There is no safe amount of smoking so the best advice is never to begin.  If you already do smoke, take steps to quit smoking

The scientists with the study found that the two most important modifiable risk factors associated with healthy vascular aging were maintaining a healthy body weight and avoiding type 2 diabetes.  But the more of the steps one practices regularly, the greater likelihood of keeping your arteries from premature aging.

Takeaway message

Even though time marches on and each of us will age, we can at the very least age gracefully and that includes our arteries too.  The best time to begin thinking of how well our arteries are aging is when we are young but it is never too late to begin adopting the steps necessary from the Life’s Simple 7 to slow down vascular aging. 

Just knowing that it is never too late to reach the healthy benefits of doing what it takes to maintain youthful arteries, should squelch any excuses you have for not trying to improve your arteries starting today.