Everyone knows their age, but what about their vascular age? Also known as heart age or cardiovascular risk (CVR) age, your vascular age (VA) takes into account metrics such as blood pressure, vascular stiffening, blood vessel stiffness and pulse-wave velocity to supply a snapshot of your general cardiac health.
Or as one 2016 research paper defined it, “the vascular age of a patient with CVR factors is defined as the age that an individual of the same sex as our patient would have if he or she were to have the same absolute risk but controlled risk factors.”
In other words, if a 40-year-old male has a VA of 63, he is said to have the same probability of dying from a cardiovascular event as a healthy person aged 63, due to the “age” of his heart and arteries.
Unlike with our real age, there are a number of steps we can fortunately take to bring down our VA and consequently bolster heart health. In this article, we shall summarise them.
1. Take Up Running
According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, taking up running can have a major impact on your vascular age.
Researchers from Barts and University College London assessed 138 untrained individuals aged 21 to 69 who were training to compete in the London Marathon.
Over a six-month training period, which consisted of 6-13 miles per week, the subjects’ “age-related aortic stiffening” was reversed and their arteries regained a degree of youthful elasticity.
In essence, this transformation served to reduce their risk of heart attacks and strokes by reducing vascular age by up to four years.
If you are not accustomed to much exercise, suddenly logging 6 to 13 miles of running per week might seem a bit unrealistic. But the benefits of building cardiovascular exercise into your routine are obvious.
If necessary, walk before you can run; cycle; swim. The important thing to remember is that cardio-focused training is likely to decrease blood pressure and reduce your aortic age.
Incidentally, the aforementioned study found that “the benefit was greater in older, male participants with slower running times.” So don’t fret if you’re not the quickest!
2. Manage Your Blood Pressure
Effective blood pressure management is key to ensuring a healthy vascular age. As such, it’s vital to have your blood pressure checked annually. Indeed, you may have to have more routine checkups if you suffer from heart disease, diabetes or related conditions.
High blood pressure also appears to accelerate cognitive decline, so it’s worth having a more regular checkup if you are at risk of Alzheimer’s.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels (between 90/60 and 120/80) becomes more difficult if you carry extra body weight, smoke or eat a poor diet. Because it is highly heritable, it is also possible to suffer from high blood pressure if you are slim and active.
Amazingly, the number of genes associated with high blood pressure stands at 901.
Thankfully, there is a lot you can do to naturally regulate your blood pressure: healthy habits include exercise, eating nitrate-rich vegetables, restricting sugar and processed table salt (replace the latter with natural, mineral-rich salt such as Himalayan), managing stress and including probiotics in your diet.
3. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
The simple directive “eat better” is one of the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 – a series of tips to help individuals lower their risk of heart disease and stroke.
Those who achieve six of the seven are said to be 10 times more likely to achieve healthy vascular aging than those who manage zero.
Needless to say, the AHA recommend plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and proteins, along with a reduction in sugary drinks, sweets, partially hydrogenated oils and processed meats.
In a 2012 research paper entitled Unique vascular protective properties of natural products, the author noted that “Very few studies have analyzed in detail or retrospectively compiled data by systematic analysis, on the effects of dietary supplements on arterial disease. One such study examined 38 published studies (clinical trials) examining the effects of natural health products on arterial stiffness measured by pulse-wave velocity.
“The results showed that in a majority of trials, omega-3 supplementation, isoflavones and flavonoids produced significant reductions in arterial stiffness.”
Food sources of the above include fatty fish, algae, legumes, tea, citrus fruit, berries and soybeans.
People who boast a healthy vascular age are said to have a 55% reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. So whether your vascular age is already classed as high, or you simply want to fortify your heart for years to come, there’s plenty of reason to prioritise a heart-healthy diet and cardiovascular workout regime.
Remember, focus on major modifiable risk factors in the first instance: smoking, diet and exercise level are the main ones. Alcohol is also a risk factor, so don’t overdo it!
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
High blood pressure appears to accelerate cognitive decline, so it’s worth having a regular checkup if you’re at risk of Alzheimer’s