Our diet is having a devastating effect on our blood vessels.
Researchers have found that it’s possible to have the vascular system of a healthy 20-something as a 70-something. But, for the most part, it’s not genetic factors that stiffen the body’s network of blood vessels as we age. It’s Western culture.
“Western culture that includes poor diets and sedentary lifestyles is a hurdle for maintaining healthy blood vessels,” said lead study author Teemu J. Niiranen, MD, research fellow at Boston University School of Medicine, Framingham Heart Study, in a press release. “Age-associated high blood pressure, for example, is not common in indigenous hunter-gatherer populations. Unfortunately, there is still no magic pill that helps achieve healthy vascular aging.”
New research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension found the most important factors for healthy vascular function were staying lean or having a low body mass index and avoiding diabetes, Niiranen says. Maintaining good cholesterol levels is key, too.
Niiranen and colleagues studied more than 3,000 adults ages 50 and older from the Framingham Heart Study. They defined healthy vascular aging for seniors as having both normal blood pressure and having a pulse-wave velocity, a measure of stiffness in the blood vessels, near the level of healthy people age 30 or younger.
Researchers found nearly 18 percent of the participants had healthy vascular aging, and it was largely tied to age. More than 30 percent of those 50 to 59 years old met the criteria for healthy vascular aging, but only 1 percent of those age 70 did, and they were more likely to be women.
They also found that people with healthy vascular aging had a 55 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
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