Research shows if you don’t take care of the “inner lining” of your blood vessels, you may be setting yourself up for heart disease or a stroke. Here are some important tips to improve how long and how well your arteries function.
The Relevance of “Endothelial Dysfunction”
The inner lining of your blood vessels is called the “endothelium”. Endothelial function declines with age and is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
When the lining fails to function optimally, it’s called “endothelial dysfunction” or ED. Think of a healthy endothelium as being smooth (think Teflon®) where nothing sticks to it.
ED refers to a spectrum of damaging changes that take place in the endothelium, such as the smooth inner lining becomes inflamed and “rough” (think sandpaper) from the constant assaults of substances like sodium, high blood sugar, and cortisol (stress hormone).
When the endothelium becomes rough, arterial plaque* sticks to the artery wall (think spackling paste or putty).
*Plaque is fatty, waxy substance made up of materials, such as fat, cholesterol, calcium, waste products from cells, and fibrin (a clotting agent).
When Plaque Builds Up and Ruptures
As more plaque deposits build up, your artery narrows and reduces blood flow. This is known as “hardening of the arteries” or atherosclerosis.
Plaque not only accumulates in the arteries, it can also rupture and create a blood clot at the ruptured area. Your body sees this rupture as an “injury” and rushes to repair it with platelets (or “thrombocytes”) to rapidly cover up the rupture and form a plug, or clot.
Platelets are very large colorless blood cells (think super glue). They help wounds heal and form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs in injured blood vessels.
When Plaque Breaks Away
Ruptured plaque can also break away and travel through the blood to other areas in your body and cause a blood clot.
If the clot is big enough, it can block the flow of blood to arteries in various organs — e.g., lungs (pulmonary embolism), heart (heart attack), or brain (stroke).
Nearly sixty percent of men suffer from varicose veins, so it’s not a common problem for just women and grandmas. Young men are afflicted as well. Here’s how to keep your veins healthy, strong, and functional.
What are Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are gnarled, enlarged veins, most commonly appearing in the legs and feet, and they are visible under the surface of the skin. These ballooned veins develop a bluish/brown appearance, but they’re not just a cosmetic concern.
The Cause — It’s All About the Valves!
They occur when the valves in your veins do not work properly. Your blood is supposed to flow in ONE direction thanks to many one-way valves in your veins. Your veins have to return blood to your heart— that is, your blood has to flow “upstream”. Once it reaches the heart, it is routed to your lungs to reoxygenate.
Faulty valves cause blood to flow back into the vein and then enlarge and swell. Due to excess pressure on the valves, they get stretched and less elastic (flexible). Depending on the vein, you have 1-13 valves per vein.
These ballooned, gnarled veins are not just a cosmetic concern. These weak bulging vessels can rupture and bleed as well as cause swelling and throbbing (mild to moderate pain) which can cut into your daily activities. Worse yet, they can cause dangerous blood clots and skin ulcers (sores).
Legs feel heavy (especially after exercise or at night)
Researchers studied 55,000 adults aged 18 to 100 for over 15 years. They studied the following:
Whether they ran
How long they lived
Physicians recorded and analyzed the following:
Resting blood pressure
Body mass index (BMI)
Cardiorespiratory fitness (assessed using a maximal treadmill stress test)
Health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure-time physical activity)
Physician-diagnosed medical conditions
Parental history of cardiovascular disease
The study excluded analyses from individuals who reported participating in other activities besides running (e.g, cycling, swimming, walking, basketball, racquet sports, aerobic dance, and other sports-related activities).
The Results (Compared with Non-Runners):
Runners had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes .
Runners had a 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Runners had a 50% lower risk of sudden cardiac death.
Cardiorespiratory fitness is a strong predictor of morbidity and mortality. (Morbidity is the condition of being unhealthy, ill, or diseased. Morbidity is the condition of being dead.) Runners had approximately 30% higher cardiorespiratory fitness than non-runners.
If You’re “Unhealthy”, Can You Still Benefit from Running?
You know you need to work out, but wonder how hard you need to exercise and how you can tell if you’re actually becoming more fit. The key is in understanding your different heart rates and what those numbers actually mean.
1. Heart Rate is the average number of times your heart beats per minute. Your heart ‘beats’ when it contracts and pumps blood through your body.
2. Resting Heart Rates indicates your basic overall heart health. The more conditioned you are, the less effort it takes to pump blood through your body and will be reflected in a lower resting heart rate.
To get a resting exercise heart rate, take your pulse after being still for five or more minutes, preferably in the same position you’ll be in during exercise. That is, if you’re going to walk, then stand quietly for five minutes and then note your heart rate.
3. Warm-Up Heart Rate is a heart rate that should be HALFWAY between your resting heart rate and target heart rate. By monitoring your warm-up heart rate, you can assess whether you’ve transitioned properly from rest to exercise with respect to:
Increased blood flow
This will reduce the onset of lack of oxygen (ischemia), chest pain (angina), irregular heart beats (arrhythmias), and other dysfunctions during the conditioning exercise phase.
Golf courses are the fifth most common place for people to suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). According to the American Heart Association, a golfer is one of over 380,000 people in the United States each year to suffer from out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest… and less than seven percent survive.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest vs Heart Attack — They’re Different
Sudden cardiac arrest is usually the first symptom of cardiovascular disease — especially in women. Women are 66% less likely than men to be diagnosed with heart disease before SCA strikes.
Sudden cardiac arrest accounts for 50% of cardiac deaths. Cardiac deaths are considered “sudden” if the death or cardiac arrest occurred within one hour of the onset of symptoms.