The well-being of your arteries depends on a healthy endothelium, the inner lining of your blood vessels. “Endothelial cells are the prima donnas within the blood vessels. They control almost every activity that occurs in the vessels, and they’re fundamentally altered with age,” Dr. Lakatta says. “People who maintain a healthy endothelium as they get older and those who make an effort to do things that promote the repair of injured endothelium can reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes caused by atherosclerosis or hypertension.”
Although scientists still have much to learn about the endothelium and what can be done to keep it healthy, a number of studies suggest that certain modifiable risk factors can have an important impact on the cardiovascular system. For instance, regular moderate exercise, such as running, walking, or swimming can reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass, decrease blood pressure, increase HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) levels, and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening. All of these exercise-induced changes can have a positive influence on endothelial cells.