8 ways to keep stiff arteries from making a stiff of you

Have you ever noticed that the older you get, the stiffer you get? And the stiffer you get, the older you seem? It’s a vicious cycle that affects every part of your body — your joints, your muscles… even your arteries.

Now, stiff joints and muscles are a nuisance. But stiff arteries are a serious business…

They make it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. They also increase your risk of stroke and heart attack. In fact, they’re the cause of 75 percent of all deaths from heart disease.

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But, it turns out, stiff arteries don’t just take a toll on your heart. They take a toll on your brain too.

Recently, researchers from the University of Montreal found that arterial stiffness causes memory loss… and may even lead to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Now, previous research has hinted at a connection between arterial stiffness and dementia in humans. But University of Montreal researchers wanted to nail down this connection more concretely…

And they did.

In their latest study, they found that mice with stiff arteries were slower learners and remembered less than healthy mice. These mice also had brain vessels that were less responsive to stimuli. This stimuli would normally increase blood flow to their brain. So the fact that their brain vessels were less responsive to it probably means their brains aren’t getting an adequate supply of blood.

What’s even more alarming is that mice with stiff arteries had higher levels of amyloid-beta peptides in their brains — the same amyloid-beta peptides that clump together to create the amyloid-beta plaques that cause Alzheimer’s.

So the moral of the story is: Having stiff arteries is bad news for your two most vital organs — your heart and your brain. The only question is… what can you do to keep your arteries soft, pliable and ageless?

Well, whether you want to prevent stiff arteries or reverse arteries that have already hardened, your arterial health is in your own hands. You just need to make a few simple but crucial lifestyle changes. Here are eight of the most important:

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  1. Keep your blood sugar balanced. High blood sugar hardens your arteries. That’s why you need to do everything you can to maintain your metabolic health… especially if you’re already dealing with serious conditions like prediabetes and diabetes.
  2. Exercise regularly. It’s been shown in more than one scientific study to reduce arterial stiffness. In fact, a 2009 study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that even short sessions of aerobic exercise three times per week successfully reduced arterial stiffness in people with diabetes. If aerobic exercise isn’t your thing, tai chi is shown to be effective against inflammation.
  3. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Like most health conditions, stiff arteries are caused by inflammation. Counteract this inflammation with powerful anti-inflammatory foods like dark, leafy greens, salmon, berries, turmeric and green tea.
  4. Keep an eye on your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is high, there’s a good chance your arteries are stiff. For a long time, scientists believed that stiff arteries were a consequence of high blood pressure. Now, they’re wondering if stiff arteries are actually a cause of high blood pressure. Either way, high blood pressure is a red flag if you’re concerned about the health of your arteries.
  5. Don’t’ smoke and drink. They’re bad for you…and your arteries. They both increase inflammation levels in your body and Swedish research indicated both as two of four factors that could decrease your life span by at least 10 years… But smoking in particular has a disastrous effect on your arteries. It damages them and causes them to tighten.
  6. Drink more tea. Green tea and black tea are filled with flavonoids that help your arteries relax and stay pliable.
  7. Take a fish oil supplement. EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil and krill oil, reduce inflammation and improve the flexibility of your arteries. A review of recent research suggests that you should take 900 milligrams of EPA and DHA to get more flexible arteries.
  8. And don’t forget the juice that keeps your arteries loose.

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  1. American Physiological Society (APS). “Stiff arteries linked with memory problems, mouse study suggests.” American Physiological Society (APS). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  2. “Explore Atherosclerosis.” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  3. M. Madden, et al. “Short-Term Aerobic Exercise Reduces Arterial Stiffness in Older Adults With Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, and Hypercholesterolemia.” Diabetes Care. 2009 Aug; 32(8): 1531–1535.
  4. “Stiff artery walls may cause high blood pressure instead of being its consequence.” Asociación RUVID. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  5. “How the foods you eat – and don’t – keep your arteries young.” The Globe and Mail. http://www.theglobeandmail.com. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.