New research has suggested that teens who drink and smoke, even if only occasionally, show signs of stiff arteries by the age of 17.
The study which spoke to teens about their smoking and drinking habits at 13, 15 and 17 years-old found that smoking and drinking alcohol in your youth, even at low levels, was associated with increased arterial stiffness, but stopping during adolescence could restore arterial health.
What are stiff arteries?
Stiff arteries or ‘atherosclerosis’ is a condition where arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaques, or atheroma.
These plaques cause the arteries to harden and narrow, restricting the blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs, and increasing the risk of blood clots that could potentially block the flow of blood to the heart or brain.
Atherosclerosis doesn’t tend to have any symptoms at first, and many people may be unaware they have it, but it can eventually cause life-threatening problems such as heart attacks and strokes if it gets worse.
Making healthy lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing stiff arteries and may help stop it from getting worse.
The main ways you can reduce your risk are:
- *stop smoking * –you can call the NHS Smokefree helpline for advice on 0300 123 1044 or ask your GP about stop smoking treatments; read more advice about stopping smoking
- *have a healthy diet * – avoid foods that are high in saturated fats, salt or sugar, and aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day; read more healthy diet advice
- exercise regularly – aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking every week, and strength exercises on at least two days a week
- maintain a healthy weight – aim for a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9; use the BMI calculator to work out your BMI and read advice about losing weight
- moderate your alcohol consumption – men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 alcohol units a week; get tips on cutting down on alcohol
For smoking and tobacco resources visit:
For alcohol resources visit: