#178 How to Find Out the Age of Your Arteries in 1 Minute

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How to Find Out the Age of Your Arteries in 1 Minute

You are only as old as your arteries.  In this article, I will show you how to find out the age of your arteries in just one minute.

As long as your arteries stay young, your heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs should continue to function normally. Read on to find out if your arteries are older than you are and what you can do to reverse artery aging now.

A Simple Test to Find Out the Age of Your Arteries

The easiest and quickest way to find out the age of your arteries is to determine your “pulse pressure.”  This can easily be done at home with a blood pressure machine.

First, take your blood pressure after you have been comfortably resting for five minutes.  The blood pressure cuff on your arm should fit well and be at about the same height as your heart.

The pulse pressure is calculated by subtracting the lower number of your blood pressure (diastolic blood pressure) from the upper number (systolic blood pressure).  For example, if your blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg, then your pulse pressure would be 40 (120 minus 80).

What does pulse pressure mean?

The pulse pressure is a gauge to the age of your arteries.  As people age, arteries tend to stiffen and fill up with plaque.

People with stiff, or old arteries, tend to have a high systolic blood pressure (top number).  In contrast, the diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) doesn’t change much with age.

What is a normal pulse pressure?

A normal pulse pressure for adults is somewhere around 40.  The closer your pulse pressure is to 40, the better.

If the pulse pressure is more than 10 points above or below 40, this could be a warning sign.  For example, a very low pulse pressure could mean heart failure, a tight aortic valve (aortic stenosis), or other problems.

On the other hand, a high pulse pressure is usually caused by stiff or old arteries.  Other causes of a high pulse pressure could include a leaky aortic valve (aortic regurgitation), too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), anemia, or other causes.

How serious is a high pulse pressure?

A high pulse pressure is something that shouldn’t be ignored.  For example, in a study of 7,929 people, researchers found that if your pulse pressure was even 10 points higher than it should be, then your risk of dying prematurely was 20% higher.

Another study showed that if your pulse pressure is more than 20 points above normal (60 or higher), that your risk of atrial fibrillation is increased by 316%!

When it comes to your brain, studies show that a high pulse pressure is associated with early dementia.  Likewise, studies also show that a high pulse pressure is linked to kidney failure and dialysis.

What causes a high pulse pressure?

The top four causes of a high pulse pressure that I typically see are due to smoking, diabetes, obesity, or advancing age.  While their isn’t much you can do about the number of candles on your birthday cake, there is a lot you can do now to reverse the biologic age of your arteries.

8 Ways to Normalize Your Pulse Pressure

The following tips to normalize your pulse pressure are based on the assumption that your high pulse pressure is due to premature aging of your arteries.  Below are the eight best ways to lower pulse pressure based on the latest medical studies.

1. High Intensity Exercise: 14 Point Reduction

The best way to lower your pulse pressure is with exercise.  Whether it is interval training or plain old “cardio,” it all helps.

Indeed, one study showed that pulse pressure was lowered by 14 points with just one hour of high intensity exercise three days a week.  While this study was definitely on the high end of what you can expect to see, most other studies show a three to six point reduction in pulse pressure with traditional exercise.

2. Yoga: 10 Point Reduction

If high intensity exercise is not your thing, another study showed that yoga was highly effective as well.  In this study, researchers compared yoga to brisk walking in 60 people with a pulse pressure above 60.  Those people randomized to an hour of yoga everyday, saw their pulse pressure go down by 10 points.

 3. Folic Acid: 4.7 Point Reduction

Folic acid has been shown to drop pulse pressure by 4.7 points in a medical study.  However, before you turn to folic acid supplements, other studies have shown that folic acid supplements are associated with colon cancer.

A much better and safer way to get all the folate your body needs is to lower your pulse pressure through healthy eating.  For example, just one cup of lentils will get you 90% of the folate you need for the day.  A cup of asparagus or cooked spinach will also get you 67% and 66% of your daily folate needs respectively.

I have found that most people who regularly eat legumes and vegetables can easily get three or more times the recommended daily amount of folate their body needs.  Supplements really should just be reserved for people who can’t get enough folate naturally.

 4. Potassium: 2.9 Point Reduction

In a carefully designed study, potassium supplementation was shown to decrease pulse pressure by 2.9 points.  This study can’t be replicated at home unless it is under a doctor’s supervision.  This is because you can only buy extremely low dose potassium supplements in the U.S.

The reason why potassium supplements only come is exceedingly low doses is because of the risk of death if you take too much.  Too much potassium from supplements could cause a cardiac arrest.

In contrast, as long as your kidneys are working properly, your body will only keep the potassium it needs from natural food sources.  A high potassium diet has long been known to lower pulse pressure.

To ensure enough potassium in your diet to keep your pulse pressure low, make sure that vegetables, legumes, and fruit cover most of your plate at mealtime.  Vegetables, legumes, and fruit are packed with potassium and the other nutrients your body needs.

5. Healthy Diet: 2.5 Point Reduction

A healthy diet, which was defined in this study as lots of fruits and vegetables with minimal animal fats, caused a 2.5 point drop in pulse pressure.  While 2.5 might not seem like much, this is much better than what many blood pressure medications can do.

6. Say No to Processed and Fast Foods: 2 Point Reduction

Nearly 80% of the salt in the Standard American Diet (SAD) comes from processed and fast foods.  Studies show that cutting back on sodium by replacing processed and fast foods with real food can lower pulse pressure by more than two points.

7. Blood Pressure Medications: 1.4 to 6.7 point drop

If lifestyle changes fail to normalize your pulse pressure, then medications may be needed.  It is important to remember that not every  blood pressure lowering medication has the same effect to pulse pressure.

For example, one study showed that clonidine and hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) dropped pulse pressure by more than six points.  In contrast, beta blockers and calcium channel blockers only lowered pulse pressure by a little more than one point.

8. Dark Chocolate: 0.5 Point Reduction

While a 0.5 point reduction in pulse pressure really isn’t that much, at least you can indulge in some dark chocolate and know that your arteries are getting younger.  In this high quality study, dark chocolate lowered systolic blood pressure by 4.4 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 3.9 mmHg, for a pulse pressure lowering of 0.5 (4.4 minus 3.9), in just one month.  Unfortunately, if you are eating anything under 70% cocoa, it is mostly sugar.

Take Home Message

Your pulse pressure is an often overlooked gauge to the age of your arteries.  In just one minute you can quickly find out if you have old or young arteries.

If your pulse pressure is high, please work under the direction of your physician to start bringing it down now.  The simple lifestyle changes discussed in this article will likely normalize your pulse pressure in just a few months.

Now is the time to turn back the clock on your arteries.

Is your pulse pressure high?  What are you doing to keep it in the normal range?

Please leave your comments and questions below.  If you haven’t signed up yet, here are the links to my free weekly newsletter and podcast.

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Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.

6 Comments
  1. Dr. Day, my pulse pressure is usually 60-75 while taking hydrocholothiazide 25mg & diltiazem 240mg. Sure, I’m 73, type 1 for 62yrs which I mishandled for about 40yrs, have intermittent claudication, and a few other not so goods. Probably should be happy I’m still mobile and get out regularly but I’d like to know how to decrease my pulse pressure. Can I lesson the stiffness in my arteries? Thanks

    • Hi Sylvia,

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. The pulse pressure is just a simple peak into the age of one’s arteries. By no means is this test completely accurate. Just a rough estimate…

      A healthy lifestyle which includes daily physical activity, a mostly plant based real food diet with a healthy weight, restorative sleep at night, management of unhealthy stress, and lots of social interaction can dramatically slow the aging process.

      Hope this helps!

      John

    • Hi Doctor, I reread your blog & now realize you answered my question. I’ll be upping my exercise and also will use the other suggestions. Thanks so much. I enjoy your writings.

  2. Hi doctor
    Just want to ask
    I have had a run in May of PAF since then nothing I have aggressively changed my diet and lifestyle
    I now have loss over a stone in weight
    Yesterday I had something to eat which I have not had for months
    Tin of spegetti and two white bread to eat .. Of I which I have to say not touched in months
    40 minutes apprx after I had massive ectopics beats not sure sure if it was ectopic only or af because the pulse was slow missing beats then a little tachy I felt the Palps in my
    Neck thudding OMG it was awful
    No others symtons
    When I laid down on my side they went
    After 20 minutes I got up then as I walking I felt awful flutters gain in epigastric area
    Laid down and they went again
    I am so confused about what happened
    Can u get any idea
    I really respect the way you think you are a cardiologist and u take note of what cause these problems and how to address with food which I totally agree with
    We don’t have this mindset from cardiologist in the UK
    Shame

    • So sorry to hear about this reaction. Unfortunately, it is hard for me to say what happened. Certainly gastrointestinal symptoms can trigger arrhythmias with the heart. Probably best to stay away from these foods…

      Best,

      John