Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in modern life, and the risk of it increases as we grow older. The older we get, the higher risk factor we have for cardiovascular disease. This is not a surprise, since the older a person gets, the less he moves and utilizes the Cardiovascular System. The result is that their arteries start to dysfunction, or stiffen in other words. This stiffness allows for blockages and the accumulation of plagues, thus the increasing the risk of a cardiovascular event as we age.
How exactly does stiffening of the arteries pose problems for the body?
Well, arteries are designed to expand as blood moves in with each contraction of the heart, and the arteries spring back with the required kinetic energy to move blood into our tissue and cells. But when the arteries stiffen, as with aging, the result is two fold. First there is a loss of blood flow to various areas, especially the peripherals.This causes a mild lack of oxygenation to the arms and legs, making it easier for your hands or feet to “fall asleep” or have “pins and needles” In extreme cases, Raynaud-esque symptoms may develop.
Secondly, the heart has to pump harder through stiff arteries, resulting in increased systolic & blood pressure. The high systolic & blood pressure in combination with stiffness causes ventricular hypertrophy. Where ventricular hypertrophy means the excessive thickening of stiff arteries. With ventricular hypertrophy, the arteries loose a lot of the kinetic energy that carries blood throughout the body. This also contributes to the manifestation of Raynaud-esque symptoms and poor circulation.
If the stiffening of arteries get out of hand, the body starts suffering. Yes plagues and blockages are more likelier to occur, but also the body tissue (mainly brain & kidneys) gets damaged from the high pressure and lack of proper oxygenation.
However, regular cardiovascular exercise is shown to stop and reverse the stiffening of arteries as we age.
But why does cardio vascular exercise prevent the stiffening of our arteries? My conjecture is that anything used will be sustained by the body, and what isn’t used withers away. This is seen to be true; whether it is the skills we acquire but no longer use, the foreign language we learned but no longer speak, or the muscles that shrinks when we stop hitting the gym.
What NIH researchers reveal is that aerobic exercise decreases global low levels of chronic inflammation in the body, and makes Nitric Oxide more bio-available by suppressing super-oxide oxidative stress. Both contribute to younger, more elastic and healthier endothelial function, or blood vessels.
Nitric oxide (NO) itself is extremely valuable to the epithelial (blood vessels). NO is responsible for being a vasodialator (widening blood vessels), anti-coagulant (prevents blood clots and blockages from forming), anti-inflammatory, and promotes the growth of healthy new blood vessels. So the lack of NO could be a significant risk factor for Cardio vascular disease.