CARVILLE: How to maintain vascular health |

CARVILLE: How to maintain vascular health

Phil Carville
Laura Elliott/ | The Union

Thanksgiving was last Thursday and if you are like most of us, you overate a bit. That’s OK if you are a consistent ‘exerciser’ because exercise is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your cardio-vascular health and healthy weight.

Unfortunately, most Americas are not ‘exercisers,’ in fact 40% are obese. Only 16% of Americans exercise daily. The pattern is dramatically different by region. In the South fewer than 13% exercise daily. In the Upper Midwest 16% exercise daily. In California-Oregon-Washington over 20% exercise daily.

Artery Disease

In short, this is ‘blood vessel disease.’ We all probably know that diseased blood vessels in the heart and brain cause heart attacks and strokes. These alone should be enough for you to exercise daily.

However, diseased blood vessels in other parts of the body are prevalent and disabling. For example, ‘peripheral artery disease’ in the legs markedly impairs the ability to walk and your quality of life. That translates into inability to walk without pain (called intermittent claudication). A longtime smoker and non-exerciser friend of mine was so impaired that he could hardly walk and experienced severe pain after just 20 steps.


Because moving your body is good for your general and arterial health, you should develop simple, daily exercise routines. Walking, running, cycling and swimming will improve your health and reduce your cardiovascular risk.

While doing these ‘cardio’ exercises your muscles use oxygen to break down fats and carbohydrates to create energy. Your muscles release byproducts such as adenosine and carbon dioxide which prompt your blood vessels to dilate in a process called ‘vasodilation’.

Vasodilation takes place all over your body – muscles, coronary blood vessels surrounding your heart, your skin… everywhere. It protects you from plaque buildup, peripheral vascular disease, lesions in blood vessels… yes, everywhere.


Now that you have digested that turkey and finished off the leftovers, it is time to take care of your blood vessels.

Think ‘daily exercise.’ Since the weather will be cold and nasty for the next few months, devise some sort of plan to get in 30 minutes of moderate exercise – at least four days a week. The more days, the better.

I recommend joining a gym so that you have a regular place to go during cold weather, have a diversity of ways to exercise, can join in group exercise classes (Yoga, dance, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, cycling, Team Training, etc.). Alternate your exercise between weightlifting and cardio-exercising (including swimming).

Treat yourself by taking a sauna or hot tub afterwards. Make the whole experience something you enjoy each day.


The time to start is now. It doesn’t matter how old you are – it is never too late to reap the benefits. Older exercisers are 50% less likely to experience the age-related impairments than their sedentary peers. This is huge – live longer and better to do the things you love with loved ones.

Studies show that late-middle-age or older persons experience significant arterial health and general health gains after just 12-weeks of brisk exercise.


The benefits of exercise are linked to intensity and duration. The more, the better. But remember that everyone has their own limits of intensity and duration.

If you have not exercised in a while, start with moderation. Engage a personal trainer to develop a program. Join group exercise classes where everyone can exercise at different levels. Twenty minutes of walking on a level treadmill at three miles per hour is a great start. After you feel confident, increase the treadmill incline a few degrees but stick to the three miles per hour. Increase intensity, gently.

Remember, it is YOUR EXERCISE PLAN, no one else’s. Make 2020 a wonderful year for you. There is no better way than to plan for a healthy, long-lasting, productive and pain free life.

Remember what Mickey Mantle said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Phil Carville is a co-owner of the South Yuba Club. He is happy to respond to questions or comments. He can be reached at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User