Arterial health refers to the condition of the arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Why You Should Look After Your Arteries
Some key aspects of arterial health include:
- Arterial stiffness – Healthy arteries are flexible and elastic to accommodate changes in blood pressure. Stiff arteries are less able to expand and contract with the heartbeat.
- Arterial plaque – Plaque refers to fatty deposits that can build up inside the artery walls. Plaque narrows the arteries, limiting blood flow.
- Endothelial function – The endothelium is the inner lining of arteries. Healthy endothelium helps arteries dilate and constrict as needed. Dysfunctional endothelium contributes to plaque buildup.
- Inflammation – Arterial inflammation is involved in atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries). Chronic low-grade arterial inflammation can lead to arterial damage over time.
- Blood pressure – High blood pressure strains the arteries and accelerates the aging process in the arteries, contributing to stiffening.
Maintaining healthy arteries involves controlling risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and unhealthy diet.
Steps like eating a nutritious diet, exercising, not smoking, and managing stress can all help support better arterial health.
What Is The Cause of Poor Arterial Health
There are several factors that can contribute to poor arterial health:
- Atherosclerosis – This is a disease in which plaque builds up on the inner walls of arteries. Plaque is made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin. Atherosclerosis causes stiffening and narrowing of the arteries.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) – Chronic high force of blood flowing through the arteries can cause injury and damage to the arterial walls. Hypertension accelerates atherosclerosis.
- Smoking – Chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the arterial walls. Smoking promotes inflammation and allows cholesterol to accumulate in arteries more easily.
- Diabetes – High blood sugar levels in diabetes lead to damage of the endothelium (artery inner lining). Diabetes also accelerates atherosclerosis.
- Obesity – Excess body fat, especially around the abdomen, releases molecules that cause chronic low-grade inflammation. This can injure arteries over time.
- High cholesterol – Elevated LDL and low HDL cholesterol in the blood promotes plaque buildup in arteries.
- Lack of exercise – Physical inactivity leads to higher rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other risk factors that impair arterial health.
- Unhealthy diet – A diet high in saturated/trans fats, salt, sugar, and processed foods can lead to plaque buildup, inflammation, and damage of the arterial walls.
- Older age – The arteries naturally stiffen and lose elasticity with aging, even in healthy adults. Aging causes changes to the endothelium and vascular smooth muscle that make arteries more rigid.
As you can see from this list, in the world of today we do a lot of things that will damage your arteries. Try and avoid as many of the above as possible if you want a healthy lifestyle and free flowing arteries.
Tips to help improve arterial health
- Exercise regularly – Aerobic exercise and strength training helps improve blood flow and reduces inflammation. Aim for 30-60 minutes most days.
- Eat a heart healthy diet – Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats like olive oil. Limit saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and added sugars.
- Lose weight if overweight – Losing even a modest amount of weight can improve cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and circulation.
- Quit smoking and vaping – Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for arterial health. Quitting can quickly reduce cardiovascular risks.
- Manage chronic conditions – Work on controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes through lifestyle changes and medication if prescribed.
- Supplement diet with omega-3s – Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, walnuts, and flax seeds helps reduce inflammation. Can supplement with fish oil capsules as well.
- Reduce stress – Chronic stress takes a toll on arterial health. Make time for stress relieving practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing.
- Monitor cholesterol levels – Work with your doctor to optimize LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels through medication or lifestyle changes.
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water. Dehydration thickens blood and makes arteries work harder.
- Limit alcohol intake – Heavy alcohol use can damage artery walls. Moderation is key.
I would also add Nose Breathing to this list.
In todays climate it is unbelievable that doctors have not yet started talking about nose breathing. It is fundamental to life, and could be a game changer to millions of people out there who suffer from many different types of illnesses.
Some key points about nose breathing:
- It’s the natural and preferred way of breathing for humans. Breathing through the nose helps filter, warm and humidify air before it reaches the lungs.
- Nose breathing promotes slower, deeper breathing. The nostrils create more resistance to the air compared to the mouth, which naturally slows the rate of breathing.
- It’s associated with numerous health benefits. Nose breathing helps regulate carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood, improves lung function and capacity, increases exercise performance, and more.
- Many people mouth breathe habitually, especially during exercise or sleep. This can lead to poor sleep quality, snoring, dry mouth, and other issues.
- Practicing nose breathing exercises can help retrain the body’s natural breathing pattern. Useful techniques include breathing only through the nose during exercise, taping the mouth shut at night, and meditation focused on the breath.
- Some people may struggle with nose breathing due to anatomical issues like nasal polyps or a deviated septum. Consulting an ENT doctor can help determine if there are any treatable conditions affecting airflow.
Nose breathing is the optimal way we are meant to breathe, and prioritizing it offers widespread benefits for respiratory and overall health. Retraining yourself to breathe through the nose takes practice but can be very worthwhile.
Can Quitting Smoking Improve Arterial Health?
Quitting smoking is widely known to improve arterial health. Studies have shown that the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the arteries, leading to atherosclerosis. With continued smoking cessation, arterial function and blood flow can be restored, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other vascular complications. Making the life-changing decision to quit smoking can have significant positive impacts on arterial health.
Question and Answers You May Ask
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about arterial health:
What foods are good for your arteries?
Foods high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and unsaturated fats promote healthy arteries. Examples include leafy greens, avocados, salmon, nuts, beans, and olive oil.
How can I improve my endothelial function?
Regular aerobic exercise, not smoking, eating a Mediterranean style diet, and certain supplements like arginine can improve endothelial function over time.
What causes hardening and stiffening of the arteries?
Atherosclerosis due to plaque buildup is the primary cause. Other factors include aging, high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, and smoking.
How often should I check my blood pressure?
Generally once a year for people with normal blood pressure. More frequent monitoring may be needed if you have hypertension or are at high risk of developing it.
What is considered high cholesterol?
Total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL are considered elevated. LDL (bad) cholesterol above 100 mg/dL is high, while HDL (good) cholesterol below 40 mg/dL is low.
What are the symptoms of poor arterial health?
Early stages usually have no symptoms. Later stages can cause chest pain, leg pain with walking, shortness of breath, and problems with erections.
Can arterial damage be reversed?
Moderate arterial blockage can be reversed through lifestyle changes and medications. But severe blockage may require procedures like angioplasty or bypass surgery.
How accurate are home blood pressure monitors?
Home monitors can be very accurate if the right size cuff is used and guidelines are followed correctly. But periodic validation with a medical device is recommended.
How often should I exercise to improve cardiovascular health?
30 minutes per day of moderate intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week is recommended, in addition to muscle strengthening exercises 2 days per week.
What is Nose Breathing?
Nose breathing refers to breathing in and out through the nose, rather than the mouth.