HEALTHY ARTERIES WITH AGING

heart with artery view

 

Having the blood vessels of a healthy 20-year-old into one’s 70s is possible but difficult in Western culture. “For the most part, it’s not genetic factors that stiffen the body’s network of blood vessels during aging. Modifiable lifestyle factors – like those identified in the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 – are the leading culprits,” Teemu J. Niiranen told us.

“Vascular aging is thought of as normal aging. As people get older, their arteries become stiffer and they develop high blood pressure. In fact, that’s what happens to most people beyond age 70. But it doesn’t have to happen,” Niiranen said.

Niiranen and colleagues studied 3,196 adults ages 50 and older from the Framingham Heart Study. They defined healthy vascular aging for people 50 years old or older as having both normal blood pressure and pulse-wave velocity near the level of healthy people age 30 or younger. Pulse-wave velocity is a measurement of stiffness in the blood vessels.

Researchers found that overall, 566 (17.7 percent) of the participants studied had healthy vascular aging. The group most likely to have healthy vascular aging was the youngest. More than 30 percent of those 50 to 59 years old in the sample met the standards for healthy vascular aging. Only 1 percent of those 70 and older had healthy vascular aging, and they were more likely to be women.

The most important factors of achieving healthy vascular function were staying lean, or having a low body mass index, and avoiding diabetes, according to Niiranen.

The other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining favorable cholesterol levels, also came into play, according to Niiranen. In fact, the researchers found that those who achieved six out of seven of the American Heart Association’s Life Simple 7 healthy heart goals were 10 times more likely to achieve healthy vascular aging than those who achieved zero to one of the measures.

The researchers also found that people with healthy vascular aging were at a 55 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to Niiranen.

“Western culture that includes poor diets and sedentary lifestyles is a hurdle for maintaining healthy blood vessels. Age-associated high blood pressure, for example, is not common in indigenous hunter-gatherer populations,” according to Niiranen.

“Unfortunately, there is still no magic pill that helps achieve healthy vascular aging. Achieving Life’s Simple 7 increases the odds of keeping healthy blood vessels even into old age,” he said. “For the population’s health, healthy vascular aging should be considered a universal goal.”

Many people have misconceptions about high blood pressure. That may help explain why only about half of those with the condition have it under control. One misconception is that stress and anxiety cause high blood pressure. A potential contributor to this notion is the disorder’s medical name, hypertension, which some people misinterpret to mean too much (hyper) emotional stress (tension).

The word hypertension came into general use around 1895, and its “tension” refers to the physical tenseness caused by excessive pressure of the pumping blood on increasingly inflexible artery walls. Several studies show that, despite the explanations their doctors may give them, many people with hypertension nevertheless associate the disorder with emotional distress and think their blood pressure goes up primarily when they feel stressed. In light of that, some of them hope that stress reduction techniques will control their blood pressure, and promoters of such techniques often encourage this idea.

It’s not illogical to think that stress could contribute to hypertension. After all, stress and anxiety are among the many psychological and physiological factors that can boost blood pressure—temporarily. However, blood pressure normally fluctuates throughout the day, and after such rises it falls back to its usual range.

Moreover, chronic stress (especially when combined with a sense of lack of control) is associated with poor health, notably coronary artery disease. But the research concerning hypertension is far from clear. Some studies have found that certain stress reduction methods (such as meditation) can lower blood pressure somewhat, at least for a while. However, several research reviews have concluded that the evidence overall is mixed and inconsistent and that any benefit is likely to be modest.

There are many good reasons to reduce excessive stress or at least learn to cope with it. Besides its adverse effects on the body and mood, stress may encourage unhealthy behavior, such as smoking, overeating, and drinking too much alcohol, which among other things can increase blood pressure. But if people think that stress management is enough to treat their hypertension, that’s a concern since it may distract them from effective treatments such as diet, exercise, weight control, and medication.

Hypertension pills have different functions. Sevikar lowers the calcium in arteries. Piramil lowers an enzyme in arteries.  That’s why taking different pills together have more drastic results.  I usually take Sevikar, but if the pressure continues I also take Piramil.

Taking one aspirin every week helps preventing an initial heart attack or stroke. Aspirin is an inexpensive, easy-to-obtain medicine cabinet stalwart that has been used for decades to prevent a second heart attack or stroke. Using aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke – known as primary prevention – has historically been a topic of debate.

Most heart attacks and strokes occur when blood flow to the heart or brain is blocked by a blood clot. Aspirin works by thinning the blood and preventing the formation of clots. In some people, aspirin can lead to complications, including excessive bleeding or a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain. Bleeding in the stomach or gastrointestinal tract can also occur, although upset stomach and heartburn are the most common side effects.

Stroke is when poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death. There are two main types of stroke: ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and hemorrhagic, due to bleeding. They result in part of the brain not functioning properly. Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include an inability to move or feel on one side of the body, problems understanding or speaking, feeling like the world is spinning, or loss of vision to one side. Signs and symptoms often appear soon after the stroke has occurred. If symptoms last less than one or two hours it is known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke. A hemorrhagic stroke may also be associated with a severe headache. The symptoms of a stroke can be permanent. Long-term complications may include pneumonia or loss of bladder control. FAST acronym describes the symptoms of a stroke: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911.

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem. Cardiac arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person becomes unresponsive, is not breathing or is only gasping. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.

Cardiac arrest can be reversible in some victims if it’s treated within a few minutes.
•  First, call 9-1-1 and start CPR right away.
•  Then, if an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is available, use it as soon as possible.
•  If two people are available to help, one should begin CPR immediately while the other calls 9-1-1 and finds an AED.

Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death. Each year, more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the United States. Most heart attacks do not lead to cardiac arrest. But when cardiac arrest occurs, heart attack is a common cause. Other conditions may also disrupt the heart’s rhythm and lead to cardiac arrest.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. A heart attack is a circulation problem. A blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die.

Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and may include intense discomfort in the chest or other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and/or nausea/vomiting. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks before a heart attack. Unlike with cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. The longer the person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number. Every minute matters! It’s best to call EMS to get to the emergency room right away. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.

Heart failure means the heart can’t keep up with its workload — providing your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs — by pumping enough blood. While initially understood to occur when the heart was severely weakened by heart attacks, viruses or genetic mutations, heart failure can occur without any apparent weakness of the heart muscle.

In heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, or HFpEF, the heart can’t fill normally with blood because the muscle is stiff or thickened. HFpEF, which affects about half of adults with heart failure, remains an enigma to many researchers.

HFpEF hits older people, especially women, more frequently. And because of the aging population, the prevalence of the condition is increasing. It frustrates doctors because it’s hard to diagnose, and there is no test to implicate the disease when people experience symptoms such as shortness of breath. And while there are treatments for heart failure’s risk factors, there is no cure for the condition.

HFpEF is one of the few heart diseases affecting increasing numbers of people each year. It accounts for a disparate amount of Medicare spending. Heart failure, one of the most common reasons people 65 and older go into the hospital, is being studied from different angles. Some people with high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease, develop heart failure while others don’t.

A fainting spell can be brought on by sudden emotional distress. Sometimes, severe dehydration or standing still for too long can lead to a blackout. But when unexplained fainting leads to hospitalization, blood clots in the lungs may be the reason far more often than doctors realize. Whenever a patient with a first episode of syncope is admitted to a hospital ward, unless he is already on anticoagulation medicine, a pulmonary embolism should be suspected.

A pulmonary embolism is a clot that breaks free from a vein, usually in the leg, and travels to the lung, where it gets stuck and blocks some or all of the blood supply. Every year, an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 Americans either get pulmonary embolisms, deep vein thrombosis (blood clots in their legs), or both, according to government figures. An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 will die from them.

If doctors believe a lung clot may be behind the fainting spell, additional screenings must be conducted, such as a blood test known as a D-dimer that can help rule out a lung clot, and a specific assessment that estimates pretest clinical probability based on various factors.

Those results can determine whether more tests, such as a CT scan, are warranted and, if so, a therapeutic dose of an anticoagulant drug should be promptly administered while awaiting the imaging tests, according to the available recommendations delivered by all major international guidelines for patients with a high probability of pulmonary embolism.

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