Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. and growing older is the greatest — and most inevitable — risk factor for it. So what, if anything, can we do to keep our hearts and arteries as healthy as possible for as long as possible? This week, researchers will convene at the Cardiovascular Aging: New Frontiers and Old Friends conference to discuss the latest research aimed at addressing this question.

Keynote speaker Douglas Seals, PhD, of the University of Colorado Boulder, will lay the groundwork of what we know and the promising research that could combat cardiovascular aging in his presentation “Strategies for Optimal Cardiovascular Aging.”

“Regular aerobic exercise and eating a healthy diet void of excessive calorie intake is the key to healthy vascular aging and the evidence for that conclusion is irrefutable,” Seals says. However, this oft-repeated preventive health advice is not always heeded.

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Stiffening in the large arteries and dysfunction in the cells that line blood vessels (endothelial cells) are hallmarks of cardiovascular disease and are often caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. While diet and exercise likely suppress oxidative stress and inflammation, researchers are exploring many new therapies that also seem to hold promise. Seals will discuss the potential effects of emerging therapies on cardiovascular aging, such as

  • high-intensity interval training;
  • novel dietary approaches such as intermittent fasting paradigms that evoke effects similar to chronic caloric restriction;
  • restricting dietary sodium intake;
  • non-prescription pharmacological compounds, such as “nutraceuticals” (natural food supplements) that “mimic” some of the effects of exercise and eating a healthy diet;
  • compounds such a selective pre-biotics that improve the function and health of the gut microbiota; and
  • passive heat therapy.