The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

My health partner
Taking control

Taking control

What can I do to have a healthier life ?

Taking control: what can I do to have a healthier life?

Everyone has heard the famous saying “a man is as old as his arteries,” but did you know that this famous quote is more than 300 years old? Indeed, this observation by the English physician Thomas Sydenham (1624-1689) looks like an early warning that traveled through time to tell us about our 21st-century lifestyle.1

The world’s population is aging, and aging predisposes us to a variety of chronic diseases, chiefly cardiovascular diseases, which remain the leading cause of premature death in modern societies. In the United States, for instance, it is estimated that more than 40% of the population will be affected by one or more forms of clinical cardiovascular disease by 2030.2

Among contributors to this situation, lifestyle choices and unhealthy dietary habits have a special role. Even if the major risk is advancing age itself, they are definitely recognized as risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, and they offer an interesting particularity; unlike age or genetics, out of sheer will, we can actually change them for the better!2

More than 2000 years before Thomas Sydenham started discussing the age of arteries, Hippocrates was credited with saying “let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”

With today’s increased awareness of the important role of lifestyle in disease, nutrition has been on the rise not only to improve the general health and well-being of patients, but also to establish nutritional strategies to stabilize or sometimes even “reverse” the disease process itself.3 Dietary interventions are especially beneficial in case of hypertension (eg, the reduction of sodium or alcohol), or hypercholesterolemia (eg, the reduction of dietary cholesterol), or coronary disease (eg, the reduction of saturated and trans fats, of salt), among others.4-6

Leading a sedentary lifestyle is also increasingly widespread in many nations. For many, finding time becomes a challenge, and life itself becomes a routine where physical activities become scarce. Still, a lack of exercise is associated with hypertension, weight gain (a risk factor for hypercholesterolemia or diabetes), or coronary artery disease.7-10

When one thinks of tobacco, respiratory diseases might be the first that come to mind, but it should not be forgotten that smoking is also detrimental to arteries, making them more susceptible to the accumulation of atheroma plaque deposits, while exerting stress on the heart by making it work faster. It should also be noted that what is true for first-hand smoking also applies to second-hand smoking…7, 8, 10

Psychological stress in modern societies might also be considered a fact of life, but as stressful experiences evoke changes in cardiovascular physiology, there is emerging evidence that the brain may play a role in stress-related cardiovascular disease risk.11 Along with stress, inadequate sleep duration has become prevalent in the population, and not only does affect the quality of life, it also confers increased cardiovascular risk.12, 13 In this respect, it has been noted that interventions, such as yoga practice, could be a particularly strong lifestyle intervention for reducing cardiovascular risk, while meditation is also a field of research at the moment.14, 15

Whether it is changing food habits, quitting smoking, taking some time to practice sports or yoga, it all takes some time and effort, but when the reward is better health and a reduction of the cardiovascular disease threat, it is certainly worth it, isn’t it?

Perform regular
physical activity

Improve
your nutrition

Relax

References:

  1. Iurciuc S, Cimpean AM, Mitu F, et al. Vascular aging and subclinical atherosclerosis: why such a “never ending” and challenging story in cardiology? Clin Interv Aging. 2017;12:1339-1345.
  2. LaRocca TJ, Martens CR, Seals DR. Nutrition and other lifestyle influences on arterial aging. Ageing Res Rev. 2017;39:106-119.
  3. Witkamp RF, van Norren K. Let thy food be thy medicine….when possible. Eur J Pharmacol. 2018;836:102-114.
  4. CDC. Preventing High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) – Healthy Living Habits. 2014.
  5. CDC. Preventing High Cholesterol. 2017.
  6. CDC. Heart Disease Prevention With Healthy Living Habits. 2015.
  7. CDC. Behaviors That Increase Risk for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension). 2014.
  8. CDC. Knowing Your Risk – High Cholesterol. 2019.
  9. CDC. Risk Factors – Basics – Diabetes. 2019.
  10. CDC. Behaviors That Increase Risk for Heart Disease. 2019.
  11. Ginty AT, Kraynak TE, Fisher JP, Gianaros PJ. Cardiovascular and autonomic reactivity to psychological stress: Neurophysiological substrates and links to cardiovascular disease. Auton Neurosci. 2017;207:2-9.
  12. Ford ES, Cunningham TJ, Croft JB. Trends in Self-Reported Sleep Duration among US Adults from 1985 to 2012. Sleep. 2015;38(5):829-32.
  13. Grandner MA, Alfonso-Miller P, Fernandez-Mendoza J, et al. Sleep: important considerations for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Curr Opin Cardiol. 2016;31(5):551-65.
  14. Chu P, Pandya A, Salomon JA, et al. Comparative Effectiveness of Personalized Lifestyle Management Strategies for Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(3):e002737.
  15. Levine GN, Lange RA, Bairey-Merz CN, D, et al. Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. J Am Heart Assoc. 2017;6(10). pii: e002218.