Did you notice, how time fly so fast? With every year that goes by, you might notice a few more wrinkles and gray hair that give away your age when you look in the mirror.
For some who can afford, would splurge on facial enhancements through surgeries and lasers. A lot of women and some men would go to this extent to improve their looks which some would say for their self-esteem or some would do it to look good for a spouse or significant other.
But in reality, we are only as old as our blood vessels. So, keeping our heart healthy is of paramount importance. Yes, it is important to feel and look good as we owe it to ourselves to have a good self-esteem and enough confidence but when it comes to living a long and healthy life, what matters most is what’s on the inside.
When I say “on the inside” I mean our blood should be able to circulate well within our body and organs to carry oxygen and nutrients.
So it is fair enough to say that our “vascular age” is determined by the condition of our blood vessels which says a lot about our age. Don’t you think so?
How To Improve Cardiovascular Health
So, how do we improve our cardiovascular health?
Everyday about 2,200 people die of Cardiovascular condition among Americans alone. According to American Heart Association someone dies from heart disease, stroke or another cardiovascular disease every 43 seconds in this country.
And it’s not just those over 65, the average age of a man’s first heart attack, that needs to be worried. Premature coronary artery disease occurs up to 10% of men before age 45, and today’s average 50-year-old has a roughly 50% risk of developing heart disease as he gets older.
Imagine missing out on life’s precious moments prematurely. Leaving behind a family and friends who you love so dearly. So let us visit these steps that will maintain our heart health for a long and healthy life that is FREE of CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.
But first let us touch on “vascular age”.
What Is Vascular Age
HOUSTONMETHODIST.ORG described it as a measure of the apparent age of your arteries. Which according to them is calculated based on risk factors such as cholesterol level, blood pressure, smoking, age and gender.
They added that by using the calcium score of the heart, the amount of hard cholesterol deposits in the arteries are being quantified. For example, if your real age is 40 and your vascular age is 50, this means the condition of your arteries is similar to a healthy person at age 50.
But you can drop that risk considerably, and add years to your life, by simply identifying the major indicators of poorly functioning heart and taking action.
When plaque (fatty deposits) clogs your arteries, that’s called atherosclerosis. These deposits are made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin (a clotting material in the blood).
As plaque builds up, the wall of the blood vessel thickens. This narrows the channel within the artery, which reduces blood flow. That, in turn, lessens the amount of oxygen and other nutrients reaching the body which can precipitate various conditions such as:
- Coronary Heart Disease (plaque in arteries in or leading to the heart).
- Angina (chest pain from reduced blood flow to the heart muscle).
- Carotid Artery Disease (plaque in neck arteries supplying blood to the brain).
- Peripheral Artery Disease or PAD (plaque in arteries of the extremities, especially the legs).
- Chronic Kidney Disease or CKD ( is a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over time).
The two main causes of chronic kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure, which are responsible for up to two-thirds of the cases.
- Diabetes happens when your blood sugar is too high, causing damage to many organs in your body, including the kidneys and heart, as well as blood vessels, nerves and eyes.
- High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels increases. If uncontrolled, or poorly controlled, high blood pressure can be a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and chronic kidney disease. Also, chronic kidney disease can cause high blood pressure.
Alright, now that we’ve talked about those various conditions that could be precipitated due to vascular problems, now, let’s go to these different ways to live a healthier life that will help our Cardiovascular health in good shape.
Here Are The Steps To Keep Your Blood Vessels In Tip Top Shape
1.Do not smoke or stop smoking if you are a smoker. According to Dr. Mohammed Chamsi-Pasha, a cardiologist with Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, one of the risk factor of Atherosclerosis is tobacco use. He said that smoking constricts blood vessels and accelerates cholesterol build up in the arteries. He added that the reason why we are seeing more and more heart attacks in young people nowadays is because of smoking which poses a major threat. The good news is once you stopped smoking, the benefits on heart and over all health are seen within 24 hours which would give a lot of smokers that hope in which after they quit, there’s a healthy future ahead of him/her. Plus it will lessen your risk of not only vascular problem but also of lung cancer and other Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases not to mention skin that’s free of wrinkles.
2. Stay active and or exercise. As we all know exercise increases blood flow to the blood vessels, which helps prevent various health conditions, stiffness and it also increases your good cholesterol (HDL). It is best to strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking at least 5 days a week. Exercise enhances our stamina, helps improve our moods, refines or tones our muscles and boosts our metabolism.
3. Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to be overly complicated. While some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on our health, it’s your overall dietary pattern that is most important. The cornerstone of a healthy diet pattern should be to replace processed food with real food whenever possible. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it can make a huge difference to our health. Focus on eating a “heart healthy diet” such as fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, fish and low fat dairy products. Limit foods with added sugars, saturated fats and processed meat.
4. Be proactive in prevention of other health condition or treating them right away. Regular followup with your Primary Care Provider is very important for prevention of health conditions and promotion of optimum health. Follow your doctor’s instructions to control high blood pressure and high cholesterol through lifestyle modifications and perhaps medication if needed. Knowing your family health history is essential too as this will serve as a guideline for your Primary Care Physician to keep an eye on your blood levels and other conditions that your family has had. If you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar level can improve the health of your blood vessels.
5. Weight Control. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight reduces the burden on your heart and improves blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Permanent weight loss requires making healthy changes to your lifestyle and food choices so stay motivated. Imagine just by losing 10 pounds off your weight if you are overweight can help lower high blood pressure which will be good for your heart and vascular health.
6. If you choose to drink alcohol, drink in moderation. Women and all people over age 64 should drink no more than 1 drink per day (and not more than 7 drinks per week), and men should drink no more than 2 drinks per day (and not more than 14 drinks per week). One drink is equivalent to:
- 12 oz. regular beer, usually about 5% alcohol or
- 8-9 oz. malt liquor, or
- 5 oz. table wine (12%), or
- 1.5 oz. 80-proof hard liquor
Drinking too much alcohol or “binge drinking” can lead to a higher risk of health problems, such as liver damage or other injuries. Binge drinking can be defined as:
- More than 3 drinks on one occasion for women and adults over age 64
- More than 4 drinks on one occasion for men.
Do You Need A Heart Screening
If you have high cholesterol or other risk factors, make an appointment and visit your Primary Care Physician so they can perform a heart and vascular screening to analyze your risk for heart disease.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A little precaution before a crisis occurs is preferable.
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Resources: American Heart Association
National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention