As we age, our arteries become stiff due to the progressive breakdown of elastin in the arterial wall. This condition known as arterial stiffness is useful for predicting cardiovascular events, especially in asymptomatic individuals. Currently, pulse wave velocity (PWV) is the ‘gold standard’ for arterial stiffness measurement. The higher the PWV, the stiffer your arteries are, the greater your risk of cardiovascular disease.
So what is the link between arterial stiffness and cardiovascular disease? Your heart has to pump harder so as to push blood through your stiff arteries. Over time, your heart muscles weaken and can no longer pump blood as effectively. This will eventually result in heart failure. Additionally, arterial stiffness leads to hypertension. In the long term, high blood pressure can damage the walls of your arteries. Bad cholesterol then begin to build up at the site of injury, which narrow the arteries and in turn increase their chances of becoming blocked. If the arteries that supply blood to your heart muscle become blocked, it can trigger a heart attack. If this happens in an artery to your brain, it can result in a stroke.
It’s time you take charge of your health! Here’s 7 tips you can follow to slow down the stiffening of your arteries.
1. Increase your omega-3 intake. Both DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) have been shown to decrease arterial stiffness by lowering blood clotting, inflammation and blood vessel constriction. Rich sources of omega-3s include salmon, sardine and tuna.
2. Include more soy (e.g. cooked soybeans, soy nuts and soy yogurt) in your diet. Soy consumption has been associated with a decline in arterial stiffness as they are high in isoflavones which offer protection to your blood vessels.
3. Eat more fruits and vegetables. According to a 2009 study, individuals who consumed the highest amount of fruits and vegetables attained the highest score on arterial function. Experts recommend that you get a minimum of 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
4. Limit your salt consumption. Lower salt intake helps decrease arterial stiffness through decreasing blood pressure and affecting chemicals which control the relaxation and contraction of your arteries. Read more on how you can lower your salt intake here: https://lifestreamgroup.com/health-tips/5-tips-to-reduce-your-salt-intake .
5. If you’re overweight, you should lose some weight. Both high blood pressure and high blood sugar can damage your blood vessels in the long run. High level of cholesterol also cause accumulation of plaque, which stiffen and narrow arteries. A healthy weight will improve your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
6. Stay active! Aim to get a minimal 2.5hrs of moderate-intensity exercises or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly.
7. Quit smoking! Smoking elevates your risk of cardiovascular diseases for both smokers and non-smokers. In the United States, over 33,000 deaths (yearly) from coronary heart disease were a result of the exposure to secondhand smoke.