As you age, it is inevitable that “garbage” will be deposited in your arteries and blood vessels, forming plaque that can block them if not controlled. The consequences of vascular diseases can be severe, such as a heart attack or a stroke.
Arteries and blood vessels (also called veins) are tubes of muscle that your blood flows through. Arteries carry blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins push blood back to your heart. You have a complex system of connecting veins and arteries throughout your body.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
Are your arteries and blood vessels protected? Learn more about what you can do to protect them and keep them healthy. From eliminating highly processed foods to avoiding red meat, discover the essential things to keep in mind to protect your arteries and blood vessels and reduce the risk of vascular diseases.
To protect your arteries and blood vessels, you must be aware of the three areas where blockages are most likely.
Key arteries and blood vessels you should be aware of
1. Coronary artery
The coronary arteries are the main channels for supplying blood to the heart. When the degree of coronary artery stenosis or narrowing exceeds 50 percent, it can cause physical discomforts, such as chest tightness and pain after activities. However, if the blockage is severe, it can lead to an acute myocardial infarction or a heart attack.
2. Carotid artery
The carotid artery connects the heart and the brain, and blockage of this artery by a thrombus (blood clot) can lead to a cerebral thrombotic stroke and carotid artery lesions.
Common symptoms include numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, dizziness or problems with balance, and severe headache with no known cause.
3. Lower extremity arteries and blood vessels
The femoral artery is the largest and most significant artery that brings oxygenated blood to the entire lower extremity. It gives off several branches throughout the thigh, which supply the skin of the inguinal and external genital areas and some thigh muscles.
Deep veins in the lower extremities lead to the vena cava, the most prominent vein in the body connected directly to the heart.
Blockage in the lower extremities is a prevalent disease caused by sitting or standing for a long time. There may be no apparent symptoms in the early stages. Still, intermittent claudication (a condition in which cramping pain in the leg is induced by exercise, typically caused by obstruction of the arteries) can occur in middle age and can affect walking.
Blockage in the lower extremities is mainly due to vascular disease caused by hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and hypertension (high blood pressure).
Subtracting habits to protect your arteries and blood vessels
You must eliminate, or a least reduce, certain habits that damage your arteries and blood vessels and lead to the onset of vascular diseases.
1. Highly processed foods
Americans eat more highly processed foods today than ever, a trend especially pronounced among children and adolescents, who get 67 percent of their daily calories from these foods. Yet, at the same time, nutrition research continues to uncover ways highly processed foods are detrimental to human health, implicating them in various chronic diseases ranging from diabetes to heart disease and cancer.
Hallmarks of ultra-processed foods include a lack of fiber; high amounts of added sugar (even in foods that don’t taste sweet), salt, and fat; and long ingredient lists, often full of hard-to-pronounce substances.
2. Saturated fat
Red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) generally have more saturated fat than skinless chicken, fish, and plant proteins. Saturated fats can raise blood cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and blood clots. Therefore, if you eat pork, beef, or other meats, choose lean meat, skinless poultry, and unprocessed forms.
Sedentariness or sitting for a long time is one of the crucial causes of hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and blood clots. If your job requires you to sit for long periods, you should stand up and move around every hour.
Daily exercises such as brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, and jumping rope are essential to prevent vascular diseases. Heart-pumping aerobic exercise is the kind that doctors have in mind when they recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity.
4. Reduce stress
Stress can affect the body’s sympathetic nerves and catecholamine levels, which can cause blood pressure and heart rate to rise. If there is already plaque in the blood vessels, there is a risk of plaque rupture or detachment, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
You should try to maintain a calm mood and reduce stress and anxiety, which can also reduce the burden on your arteries and blood vessels.
5. Drink more water and certain beverages
Drinking more water can help enhance blood circulation and prevent thrombosis. Drinking green tea regularly can improve blood lipids, especially by making the “good cholesterol” (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) drop more slowly. However, you should avoid strong tea, especially before bed.
The older you get, the more prone you are to vascular diseases. Thus, you should protect your arteries and blood vessels, avoid and reduce bad habits, keep the blood flow unimpeded, and reduce the “garbage” that will adhere to artery and blood vessel walls.
Translated by Patty Zhang