The American Heart Association (AHA) said in its journal Hypertension that healthy arteries are possible even as individuals age, citing data from the Framingham Heart Study that found that lifestyle is a factor in maintaining vascular health.
“For the most part, it’s not genetic factors that stiffen the body’s network of blood vessels during aging; modifiable lifestyle factors – like those identified in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 – are the leading culprits,” Dr. Teemu Niiranen, Framingham study author and Boston University School of Medicine research fellow, said in a release. “Vascular aging is thought of as normal aging. As people get older, their arteries become stiffer and they develop high blood pressure. In fact, that’s what happens to most people beyond age 70. But it doesn’t have to happen."
Of the 3,196 participants in the study, 566 had healthy vascular health. While more than 30 percent of the 50 to 59 year olds had normal blood pressure and blood vessel stiffness of a healthy 30 year old or younger, only 1 percent of those 70 or older, mostly women, had the same healthy vascular system.
Among the measures that lead to healthy vascular aging were maintaining a low body mass index (BMI) and healthy cholesterol levels. Following a healthy diet, exercising regularly and quitting smoking are three of the Life's Simple 7 choices that lead to better vascular health.
“Unfortunately, there is still no magic pill that helps achieve healthy vascular aging,” Niiranen said in the release. “Achieving Life’s Simple 7 increases the odds of keeping healthy blood vessels even into old age. For the population’s health, healthy vascular aging should be considered a universal goal.”