Research shows we can prevent hardening of the arteries as we age

For years, getting older often was associated with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). This condition can lead to serious medical problems, including heart attack, stroke and possibly death. However, a new study concludes that aging and hardening of the arteries don’t have to go hand in hand.

Hardening Of The Arteries In Older People

The study, published in the medical journal Hypertension, concluded that age doesn’t always affect the condition of our arteries. A team of researchers at Boston University looked at more than 3,000 people ages 50 and over. Their goal: to find people with healthy vascular aging. Doctors found some patients well into their 70s in good shape.

In fact, some of these people had “arteries that are as soft as people in their twenties or teens,” Dr. Teemu Niiranen told Consumer Reports. Dr. Niiranen, a research fellow with the Framingham Heart Study at Boston University, outlined a few reasons for these findings:

Older people who maintained healthy arteries shared the following traits:

  • regular exercise
  • healthy diet
  • staying close to normal body weight
  • normal blood pressure
  • maintaining normal sugar levels

Study participants who followed these guidelines were 10 times more likely to have flexible arteries than the others.

In other words, an active, healthy lifestyle is still one of the best ways to keep healthy—both in the short term and down the road.

doctor photo
Getty Images | Joe Raedle

Prevention Is Key To A Long, Healthy Life

Despite the good news, the study also showed that the older the subject, the harder it can be to maintain a healthy vascular system. For example, the study reported that 30 percent of subjects in their 50s had healthy arteries. However, only one percent of people age 70 and older had the same results.

Dr. Niiranen told Consumer Reports that it can be challenging for elderly people to maintain the key components for a healthy lifestyle. Even for those who do, Dr. Niiranen added, “the older you are, the more difficult it may be to achieve the desired results.”

The best way to keep your heart and vascular system healthy? Start tackling those healthy lifestyle changes at a young age. It’s better to avoid the problems brought on by age than to have to treat them later on. Prevention is the key to a long, healthier life.