By Alexander H. Hou MD, FACS,
Vascular disease is one of the most common causes of death worldwide, and for many people prolonged sitting is a contributing factor, but there is a way to reverse vascular dysfunction if you have a sedentary lifestyle.
Vascular health focuses on keeping your heart and lungs in good condition so they can perform at a strong level. As we age we are at a higher risk for heart attacks, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strokes and peripheral artery disease (P.A.D). When we live sedentary lifestyles we are putting ourselves at even more risk of vascular dysfunction.
Our weight plays a big part in many of our health problems, including the diseases mentioned above. Most people associate exercise with good cardiovascular health, but they don’t realize what physical activity, like walking, can do to keep our blood pressure and other diseases from taking over.
Cardio exercises, such as running, swimming and cycling, can help get our heart rate up and are excellent for both the vascular and respiratory systems. While not all of us consider ourselves athletes, it doesn’t mean we have to give up and turn to a life of sedentary sitting. A new study suggests that simply walking around for a few minutes can reverse vascular dysfunction caused by sedentary sitting.
Sedentary sitting at a computer and vascular health
Technology – specifically sitting at a computer – has increased sedentary behavior in recent years, thus raising concerns about vascular health. Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine decided to look at the problem. What they found was that when a person sits for six hours straight, vascular function is damaged; however, walking for just 10 minutes after sitting can help restore vascular health.
During the study, researchers observed and compared the vascular function of healthy men before and after a long period of sitting. They discovered that blood flow in the popliteal, an artery in the lower leg, was significantly reduced after sitting at the desk for just six hours. Once the participants took a 10-minute walk, their blood flow and overall vascular function improved.
Fitness experts at the University of Missouri explained that when you have decreased blood flow, the friction of flowing blood on the artery wall is also reduced. It seems that moderate levels of friction are good for arterial health, but low levels reduce the ability of the artery to dilate. The more the artery can dilate, the healthier it is.
The research team has indicated that more investigation is needed to figure out if repeated periods of reduced vascular function with prolonged periods of sitting can lead to long-term vascular problems.
Exercise for improving vascular health
The first step to protecting yourself from cardiovascular disease and other vascular diseases is to avoid unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet and smoking. The next step is to get moving. While a walk is great to get the blood flowing and awaken the senses, there are many other exercises you can enjoy while also being kind to those vascular blood vessels.
Cardio exercises can normally get your heart rate up to between 65 and 95 percent of its maximum. The list below includes a few examples of cardio exercises that you can consider.
• Jumping rope
• Jumping jacks
If you are not accustomed to cardio exercises, it is best to start out slow, gradually increasing your exercise level. This will help build strength in your heart and lungs.
Others ways to improve your vascular health
Perhaps you are trying to prevent heart attacks, peripheral artery disease, high blood pressure, or you have a disease and want to improve your situation; regardless of the circumstances, there are other ways aside from cardio exercises to go about it.
You can eat a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat to make sure plaque does not build up in your arteries. Plaque slows, and in some cases even stops, blood flow to and from your blood vessels. At the same time, you can be monitoring your blood pressure since high pressure puts your cardiovascular health in jeopardy. If you have diabetes, work on keeping your blood glucose under control. People with diabetes or peripheral arterial disease should also pay close attention to foot care. Blood vessels in your limbs are more prone to hardening of the arteries, as well as nerve damage.
One of the best things we can do for our vascular health is maintain an optimum weight. After all, for every pound we have on us, our heart has to pump blood through an extra mile worth of blood vessels.
Alexander H. Hou MD, FACS, is a skilled Board Certified and fellowship trained vascular surgeon specializing in the treatment of arterial and venous diseases employing both open and endovascular techniques. Dr. Hou is a member of Society for Vascular Surgery, a premier society for vascular surgeons, in addition to several other regional vascular societies, also a Fellow of American College of Surgeons. He has publications in several peer reviewed journals focusing on vascular diagnostic and interventions using duplex ultrasound.
Dr. Hou has been practicing in Ashland since 2005 and is known for delivering high quality vascular care exemplified by the “minimal incision” surgical technique resulting in less pain, better healing and esthetically more appeasing scars.
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