The blood vessels that carry oxygen throughout your body get stiffer over time, which can put you at risk for heart attack, stroke, dementia and a wide range of other health problems.
But you can slow down how fast your arteries age, doctors say:
Eat less salt. Many people focus on fat and calories in foods, but too much salt may be the worst thing for your arteries. Shun the salt shaker and read labels: Salt can lurk in unexpected places, from breakfast cereals to otherwise healthy frozen dinners.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. According to one recent study, cells that regulate blood flow inside arteries become 6 percent more effective with each daily serving of fresh produce. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage and colorful fruits -- blues, reds, yellows and purples -- may be especially beneficial.
Do regular aerobic exercise. Workouts increase the production of nitric oxide, a gas that relaxes and dilates blood vessels.
Don't cheat on your diet (at least not often). A single fatty meal can strain your arteries. Within a few hours of loading up on saturated or trans fats, in fact, your blood vessels likely will be narrower and working harder move blood along.
Lose excess weight. Arteries stiffen as people gain weight, especially if the fat accumulates deep within the abdomen.
Manage chronic conditions. High blood pressure, which places extra force on arterial walls, damages proteins that help keep blood vessels flexible. Uncontrolled diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels that cause strands of proteins in arteries to bind together, which increases overall rigidity.
Quit smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes damage the inside lining of arteries, allowing more fatty plaques to stick to vessel walls.