Blocked arteries can lead to dramatic events such as a stroke or heart attack which have serious consequences and may even be fatal. It’s therefore crucial to take care of your arteries throughout life.
How best to do this? Blocked arteries have many causes: excess cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure … But you can take action on a daily basis to combat these factors and delay the development of unhealthy arteries, or restrict the progress of existing arteriopathy. In applying the following measures every day, you’ll be safe in the knowledge that you’re giving your arteries the best possible care!
This is the first step towards maintaining healthy arteries: eat sensibly – everything in moderation! It’s important to avoid added sugars, which help raise blood glucose levels and increase the risk of diabetes. Alcohol too has adverse effects on glycaemia and also increases arterial stiffness: make sure you drink moderately.Watch your salt intake too: high consumption is associated with a rise in blood pressure. Examine the labels of ready meals carefully: they often have lots of added salt and sugar, and many of them are low in nutritional value.
To maintain healthy blood vessels, prioritise fruits and vegetables high in fibre, vitamins and antioxidants, as well as complex rather than simple carbohydrates, fish, and dried fruits.
Be aware of the difference between good and bad fats. The former, found in oily fish, dried fruits, avocados and vegetable oils, increase levels of cholesterol beneficial for blood vessels. The latter, found in butter, meat, charcuterie and most processed foods, do the opposite: they increase levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol which accumulates in the arteries and eventually causes atheromatous plaque. This prevents healthy blood flow and in the long-term leads to obstruction of the arteries.
We know, of course, that smoking is bad for our overall health. It has a destructive effect on the heart and blood vessels: it leads to a rise in ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, encourages the blood to coagulate and form blood clots, and increases inflammation of the arteries and thus blood pressure! But these short- and long-term effects can be reversed by stopping smoking. There’s plenty of support available from health professionals to help you on your way to ‘kicking the habit’.
The arteries are adversely affected by lack of sleep while an adequate amount supports natural mechanisms of physiological control. These help the body’s maintenance processes to function properly, including the heart and blood vessels. To encourage restorative sleep, avoid stimulants (tea, coffee, energy drinks) and try to relax before going to bed. You can also try valerian or melatonin supplements which are known to promote drowsiness.
The body has a very effective mechanism to help it respond to stressful situations. However, this response becomes disproportionately intense when that stress is severe and frequent: blood pressure rises sharply and increased production of white blood cells raises the risk of atheromatous plaque formation.
To manage your day-to-day stress levels effectively, you need to find a solution that best suits you from the many options available: meditation, tai-chi, gardening, reading a good book … Relaxation techniques such as sophrology or deep-breathing exercises can also help you get things in perspective!
Regular exercise offers nothing but benefits for arterial health: it lowers blood pressure and levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, and boosts the cardiovascular system as a whole.
Engaging in daily sports activity doesn’t mean spending two hours struggling to lift weights if that’s not your thing! You can choose a more moderate activity, such as a brisk, 30-minute walk, take the stairs instead of the lift, the bike instead of the car … Any form of exercise is fine, as long as it’s doing you good!
To reduce the risk of recurrence if you’ve already had blocked artery issues, or if you have risk factors like diabetes or high blood pressure, be sure to take advantage of the medical tests on offer. If your doctor recommends it, don’t put off having an electrocardiogram (ECG), a stress test or an angiogram, so that any danger signs can be identified as soon as possible.
For prevention, or reducing the risk of relapse, natural options are available in the form of dietary supplements: garlic extract for blocking the formation of atheromatous plaque (1), vitamin D for increasing flexibility of artery walls (2), marine-source omega-3 for reducing inflammation (3), olive leaf extract for lowering blood pressure (4), red yeast rice for reducing levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol (5)… Ask your pharmacist for help in finding what you need among the many supplements on offer.
Whether for prevention or cure, it’s important to adopt good everyday habits to safeguard the health of your arteries. Eating well, sleeping well and being more active are the cornerstones of excellent cardiovascular health!
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