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70-year-old indeed can have arteries of 20-year-old

Staff Writer | June 1, 2017
Imagine having the clear, supple, healthy blood vessels of a 20-year-old in your 70s.
70-year-old
Aging   If you eat right, exercise and stay trim
It's possible, but "challenging," a new study suggests.

Still, if you eat right, exercise and stay trim, you have a shot at offsetting age-related blood vessel degeneration, according to this study of more than 3,000 adults.

Genetics played less of a role than lifestyle in keeping blood vessels young, the researchers found.

Over time, blood vessels stiffen and blood pressure rises, leading to a significant risk for heart disease and stroke, said Dr. Teemu Niiranen. He is a research fellow at Boston University School of Medicine and the Framingham Heart Study.

"We didn't find any magic bullet that kept people's blood vessels young," he said. "It seems that these are people who just lead a very healthy lifestyle."

Heart disease is really a lifestyle disease, Niiranen explained. And a lifetime of poor eating habits and sedentary living - hallmarks of Western culture - take their toll, he said.

"When you get over 70, it is hard to maintain a normal vasculature -- it's possible, but it's very challenging," Niiranen said.

But in many indigenous hunter-gatherer populations, high blood pressure is the exception, not the rule, he said. Those groups rely on foraging and hunting to obtain food.

For the study, Niiranen and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,200 adults aged 50 and older enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study -- a long-running project run by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Staying lean and not developing diabetes were the keys to keeping blood vessels young, he said.

Low cholesterol levels also contributed to maintaining healthy blood vessels, Niiranen said.


 

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