Stiff rules work for keeping vessel stiffness at bay

The buzz is near constant on the link between good health and healthy living. But healthy living is hard work and easier said than done as we age.

New research out of Boston University shows that many artery problems can be either avoided or delayed with, you guessed it, a healthy lifestyle that reduces blood pressure and vessel stiffness. But as the researchers noted in the study in Hypertension, that can be “extremely challenging” as people age.

The study included almost 3,200 patients aged 50 and older from the Framingham Heart Study. They found that only 18 percent of them met the requirements for healthy vascular aging (defined as the absence of hypertension and having arteries similar to that of a 30-year-old person). The patients between 50 and 59 had the highest measures of healthy vascular aging. Among those who were 70 and older, only 1 percent had healthy arteries. They found that people with healthy vascular aging were at a 55 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Women were more likely to have healthy arteries than men, mostly due to the fact that the women were generally leading healthier lifestyles. A low body mass index, not having diabetes and using lipid-lowering drugs also made a difference.

Teemu J. Niiranen, MD, the author of the study and a research fellow at Boston University School of Medicine, said the health goals what the American Heart Association calls “Life’s Simply 7” impact the aging of blood vessels which include: fasting blood glucose, cholesterol, resting blood pressure, body mass index, smoking status, diet quality and physical activity. The researchers found that people who met six of the seven Life’s Simple 7 goals were 10 times more likely to achieve healthy vascular aging, compared to people in the study who didn’t achieve any of the seven or attained only one.

Bottom line? Live healthy. Start now.