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Long before you clutch your chest in pain and panic because you’re having a heart attack, something happens in your arteries…
They become harder, narrower, and filled with a sticky plaque that slowly chokes your blood flow. These changes are known as atherosclerosis, and they occur in more than 3 million Americans each year.
Most people with atherosclerosis don’t know they have it until it’s too late, because it doesn’t have any obvious symptoms until the blockage becomes severe. But your doctor can check for it.
The thing is, whether you have atherosclerosis or not, everyone’s arteries harden some with age. That means, it’s a good idea to proactively protect your arteries, pronto.
So, what can you do to keep your arteries clear?
Eat your vegetables, that’s what. But what if you are just not a fan of the plant stuff? No problem—there’s just one kind you really need to get a little of everyday for clear arteries…
The life-saving power of cruciferous vegetables
A recent study from researchers at the University of Western Australia in Crawley found that older women who eat their vegetables have much clearer arteries.
The study included 954 women who were 70 or older. Women were asked to fill out a food questionnaire. They also received sonograms to gauge the thickness of their carotid arteries.
Carotid arteries are in the neck, and just like the arteries in your heart, they can develop atherosclerosis. The difference is, when your carotid arteries get blocked, it cuts off the blood flow to your brain and you have a stroke rather than a heart attack.
So, no matter where it happens, atherosclerosis is bad news. The good news is, atherosclerosis can be prevented by pumping you body full of fresh produce.
The women in the study who ate a lot of vegetables had thinner artery walls than women who didn’t. Their arteries were 0.05 millimeter thinner. This may not sound like a lot, but researchers say every 0.1 millimeter decrease in carotid wall thickness lowers your risk of having a stroke or heart attack by 10 to 18 percent.
The food questionnaire asked women about their intake of five different types of vegetables: cruciferous (like broccoli and cauliflower), allium (like onions, garlic, leeks and shallots), yellow/orange/red, leafy green and legumes (technically vegetables since they come from a plant). But researchers determined that it was really one type that was doing all the heavy lifting… cruciferous vegetables.
They found that every 10 grams of cruciferous vegetables women ate per day reduced the thickness of their carotid artery wall by 0.8 percent. Since a typical serving of broccoli is about 36 grams, that probably leads to a nice reduction in stroke and heart attack risk.
So, eat your broccoli, folks! It could save your life.
Plenty of cruciferae to choose from…
Broccoli is probably the best-known member of the cruciferae family. But there are plenty of other cruciferous vegetables to choose from (even a few surprising ones) if you want clear arteries, like:
- Bok choi
- Broccoli rabe
- Brussel sprouts
- Chinese Broccoli
- Collard Greens
- Turnips and turnip greens
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- “Vegetables may help protect elderly women from hardening of neck arteries.” https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-vegetables-elderly-women-hardening-neck.html. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/atherosclerosis.html. Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- P. Toth. “Subclinical atherosclerosis: what it is, what it means and what we can do about it.” International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2008 Aug; 62(8): 1246–1254.
- “Carotid Artery Disease.” MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/carotidarterydisease.html.Retrieved April 12, 2018.
- “Cruciferous Vegetables: Cruciferous Definition And The List Of Cruciferous Vegetables.” Gardening Know How. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/vgen/cruciferous-vegetables.htm. Retrieved April 12, 2018.