Discovery May Prevent Hardening Arteries
How to Prevent Hardening of the Arteries
The hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, is a cardiovascular disease in which the innermost layer of the artery thickens and attracts deposits of fat or plaque. Over time, plaque eventually protrudes into the artery and interferes with blood flow. Sometimes, it breaks off into the bloodstream and causes heart attack, stroke, or serious blockage in the lungs, kidneys, or legs. Make no mistake: atherosclerosis is a life-threatening disease. However, you can take steps to prevent it by treating the most commonly associated factors, including smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Eating a Healthy Diet
Eat a balanced diet.Atherosclerosis may be caused, in part, by high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, which damage the lining of the artery wall and trigger plaque accumulation.Doctors therefore recommend eating a healthy and balanced diet as part of a prevention scheme. A good diet will be rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes like beans, chickpeas, and lentils, low-fat dairy products, and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids like trout and salmon. It will also mean giving up most red meat, sugary foods and beverages, and certain fats like palm and coconut oil.
Beware of saturated and trans-fats.In eating a healthy diet, one of the key things that you can do to prevent hardening arteries is to limit your intake of saturated and trans fats. Saturated fats come from animals products like butter and lard; trans fats are often found in hydrogenated oils like margarine or in prepared foods. These two types of fat raise your blood cholesterol levels more than any other factor. If you are following a heart-healthy diet, no more than 5% of your daily calories should come from them. For example, if you eat 2,000 calories per day, you should not exceed 13 grams of saturated or trans fats.
- Keep in mind that not all fats are bad. Olive oil, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, and avocados are all very good for your cardiovascular health.
Reduce your consumption of salt.The medical debate on salt is ongoing. While doctors have long warned that Americans eat too much salt, recent research suggests that the risks may be exaggerated.However, we know that salt raises blood pressure, which is a factor in atherosclerosis. So lowering your intake of salt will help to alleviate high blood pressure and, ideally, act as a preventative against the hardening of arteries. As part of a heart-healthy diet, you should consume no more than 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day. In fact, the lower the better.
- You might be consuming more salt than you know. Eliminate any prepared foods like canned soups which often contain high amounts of salt added as a preservatives or to enhance flavor. Check the nutritional label under "sodium" to find salt content. In California and several other states, restaurants are also required to display nutritional information or provide it on demand. Ask if you can see the sodium content of your order.
Moderate your intake of alcohol.Like sodium, alcohol raises blood pressure when drunk to excess. Recent research seems to link excess drinking, especially binge drinking, and atherosclerosis. However, there is evidence that people who drink moderately experience improved cardiovascular health and lower risk of atherosclerosis - this means no more than one drink per day for a female and two drinks per day for a male, with one "drink" being 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of hard liquor. Drinkers who exceed these limits in "binges" of more than four drinks on any day for men and more than three for women show much poorer results. Scientists do not yet understand the mechanism, but, as Dr. John Cullen of the University of Rochester notes, “people need to consider not only how much alcohol they drink but the way in which they are drinking it.” Keeping the units of alcohol you consume low is a good idea for optimal artery health.
Join a smoking cessation program.The chemicals in cigarettes harm your blood cells. They also raise your blood pressure, impair heart function, and damage arteries, increasing your risk of atherosclerosis. Whether your cigarette smoke intake is primary or second hand, regular or occasional, any amount hurts your heart and can lead to the hardening of arteries as well as to clots in the bloodstream. The best thing for you to do is quit entirely, which immediately reduces and eventually reverses your risk for all types of heart disease and stroke.Look for smoking cessation programs. Find out from local newspapers, churches, online, and by word of mouth where programs exist and seek them out. If you can’t find a convenient program, start your own group by encouraging smokers you know to quit along with you.
Know your triggers.Be aware of what things you usually do when smoking. Some people smoke while drinking coffee or alcohol, after meals or while watching television, or while in the company of certain people. Once you identify your triggers, take steps to change your behavior. If you tend to smoke during your favorite shows, for example, watch them at the gym while you work out or cut your television viewing altogether. Another strategy is to change your drinking habits by switching from coffee to hot tea and/or to avoid smokers.
- It’s important to ask for support from family and friends, especially from those who smoke. Ask them to avoid smoking in your presence. It’s difficult to quit if you see and smell it around you.
Ask your doctor to suggest cessation aids.Your doctor can suggest medically tested cessation aids. Over-the-counter nicotine aids like gums, patches, or lozenges give you small doses of nicotine and reduce cravings while you slowly wean yourself. There are also prescription nasal sprays, inhalants, and medicines like Bupropion and Varenicline that are used to treat the addictive and withdrawal effects of nicotine. Ask your doctor about what is best for you.
Start an exercise program.Regular exercise can reduce blood pressure and also reduce blood sugar, “bad” fats, and cholesterol, as well as help you reduce excess weight. – All of these are factors that have been indirectly linked to the hardening of arteries. Regular exercise will also help you to strengthen your heart muscle and improve your overall health. You should aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week or 1 hour and 15 minutes of intense exercise. The more active you are, the more you will benefit. Participate in aerobic exercise for at least ten minutes at a time spread throughout the week.
- Plan to do exercises that will elevate your heart rate and oxygen use but that you can sustain at low or moderate intensity for an extended period. Some exercises that fit this recommendation are walking, running, swimming, cycling, jumping rope, or rowing.
- Experts also recommend two to three 20-30 minute weight training sessions every week, in addition to cardio. Weight training builds lean muscle mass and is part of a healthy workout regimen.
Go slowly at first.The Mayo Clinic suggests that you go at your own pace. If you are not currently exercising, start gradually by walking and performing other low-impact activities that you feel comfortable doing. Give yourself plenty of time to warm up and then gently increase the intensity. As your stamina increases, gradually lengthen the amount of time that you exercise to 30 to 60 minutes each session. Listen to your body, as well and stop if you feel pain, nausea, dizziness, or shortness of breath.
Create a routine.Plan your week in order to fit in exercise. If finding time is hard, try to work exercise into your daily routine. Walk to work or to run errands, for example, take the stairs rather than the elevator, or watch your favorite TV shows while on a treadmill.
- Exercise partners can hold you accountable and create a more social atmosphere. By joining a group such as aerobics, a sports league, or another structured program you may get more enjoyment out of exercise.
Treating Related Health Factors
See a doctor regularly.Routine check-ups can catch early arterial problems. You don't necessarily need a yearly check-up. If you are under 30 and otherwise healthy, going to your doctor once every two to three years is enough. A check-up every other year is sufficient for those between 30 and 40 who do not have any medical conditions. Annual physicals should start at around the age of 50, earlier if you are at special risk or have other health problems.
Treat high blood pressure.As said before, high blood pressure can increase your risk of arterial problems and over time cause arteries to stiffen. It therefore needs to be treated. In addition to lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, coping with stress, and limiting sodium and alcohol, it is also possible, with your doctor, to treat high blood pressure through medication. Diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers are all common medicines which, in different ways, stop or slow body functions that increase blood pressure.
- It is not uncommon for someone to take more than one medication for high blood pressure. You may also experience side-effects. In that case, do not stop taking the medication but ask your doctor if she can change the dosage or drug.
Treat high cholesterol.As said before, high cholesterol is also an indirect factor in the development of atherosclerosis. Your cholesterol level may be high from your diet and/or from your body making too much cholesterol on its own. Apart from losing weight and reducing your consumption of saturated and trans fats, minding food labels carefully, you may need to ask your doctor for medical help in lowering your cholesterol. Statins, for example, block a substance that your liver needs to make cholesterol, which causes the liver to remove the cholesterol from the blood. Statins not only lower cholesterol levels but help the body absorb existing deposits on artery walls, which can possibly reverse coronary artery disease. Other medications may also protect the arteries by decreasing the inflammation, which is thought to contribute to heart disease.
Control your diabetes.Diabetes can cause hardening of the arteries by leaving severe calcium deposits. People with high levels of calcium in the blood are at greater risk for developing hardening of the arteries, so make sure to manage the disease appropriately if you are diabetic. Check your blood sugar daily. Keep track of your numbers and report these to your doctor. Be familiar with what normal blood sugar levels are and try to keep your readings as close to normal as possible. You can do this through an insulin regimen, medicine, exercise, and a special diabetic diet planned in consultation with a doctor or nutritionist.
QuestionWhat natural foods help keep arteries healthy?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSome studies show that garlic has antiplatelet activity which means it prevent platelets from sticking together and forming a blood clot.Thanks!
QuestionCan an aortic ultrasound detect hardening of the arteries?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes an aortic ultrasound can detect the hardening of the arteries and so much more.Thanks!
What are the best vegetables for reducing plaque?
My readings are up and down. Is there an implantable device to measure sugar?
How can I moderate the pressure of my ulcers?
- Although there are certain medications that can slow or sometimes reverse the effects of hardening of the arteries, there are no specific drugs that will prevent atherosclerosis. Having said that, taking a small dose of aspirin (81 mg/day) is sometimes recommended to help keep the blood platelets from sticking together. Low-dose aspirin regimens are often recommended for people aged 50-59 who are not at increased risk for bleeding and have an increased risk of heart attack. Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for a daily aspirin regimen.
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