COST Action Blog: VascAgeNet making the arteries visible


World Vascular Ageing Week 2022

Blogs are written by COST Actions

Red and white logo of the VascAgeNet project

COST Action VascAgeNet aims to establish a network which will work to refine, harmonise and promote the use of vascular ageing measures, in order to improve clinical practice and to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases globally. 

What is Vascular Ageing and why should we care?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide, with one in three deaths being attributable to CVD.

Prevention of CVD is a public health priority, we need to identify individuals at increased cardiovascular risk at an early stage to reduce both the health and economic burden of CVD.

Vascular ageing is a process that can capture these early stages of health degeneration. It involves the deterioration in blood vessel structure and function over time, which ultimately leads to organ damage in the heart, brain and kidney.

Vascular age is better related to the prognosis of CVD compared to chronological age. If you have a vascular age that is older than it should be, you are at an increased risk of developing CVD and having an event (such as a heart attack or stroke).

How can VascAgeNet help?

Vascular age is currently not routinely measured in everyday clinical practice. VascAgeNet is a network of scientists, clinicians, engineers, and Industry partners that are working together to to refine, harmonise and promote the use of vascular ageing measures, in order to improve clinical practice and to reduce the burden of CVD globally.

A large part of our work is centered around education and awareness. Most people do not know if they have early or accelerated vascular ageing until it is too late. For this reason, we created World Vascular Ageing Week, partnering with the Artery Society and May Measurement Month.

The aim of the awareness week is to both raise awareness for vascular ageing, as a concept, and to promote ways to modify, prevent early or accelerated vascular ageing (such as stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol intake, exercising regularly, eating a heart healthy diet, and managing stress and sleep).

World Vascular Ageing Week in details

World Vascular Ageing Week ran from May 16th to May 20th 2022. It coincided with our in-person Training School and Working Group meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece. The theme of the week was ‘What are you doing for your arteries today?‘ and ran as a social media campaign, asking people to post photos of what they do to keep their heart and arteries healthy.

Each day we focused on different risk factors associated with early vascular ageing and posted videos and information about these topics. Discover a summary of the topics and facts we shared below.

Poster "World Vascular Ageing Week 2022. May 16th - 20th 2022"

Monday – the connection between smoking, alcohol and vascular ageing

  • Smoking both active and passive has been extensively associated with acceleration of vascular ageing both on an acute and a chronic basis.
  • The burst of electronic cigarettes and its initial negative repercussion on cardiovascular health through their effect on vascular ageing should also be stressed.
  • Alcohol consumption has a J- or U-shaped effect on vascular ageing.
  • Low to moderate consumption is beneficial, while high consumption and especially binge drinking may be deleterious on vascular health.

Tuesday – the connection between blood pressure and vascular ageing

We chose to focus on blood pressure on this this day because it was also ‘World Hypertension Day’.

  • Raised blood pressure is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide. Many people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition.
  • Blood Pressure and Vascular Age are interconnected. By maintaining an elastic arterial system, you can prevent high blood pressure.  

Wednesday – the connection between diet and vascular ageing

  • Different dietary components can slow down vascular ageing, by improving endothelial function, controlling vascular tone, oxidative stress, inflammation, platelet function, and reducing blood pressure.
  • A healthy destiffening diet, able to reverses the age-related burden of cardiovascular risk, should be rich in fruits and vegetables, polyunsaturated fatty acids, cocoa flavonoids, tea catechins, and dairy products, with a limited intake of salt and red meat.
  • Mediterranean diet enables destiffening due to the synergistic effect of its components and reduction in blood pressure.

Thursday – the connection between stress and sleep and vascular ageing

  • Chronic stress (e.g., caregiver stress, financial stress), including exposure to microstressors (e.g. rush-hour traffic, work-related deadlines, social isolation), leads to vascular aging via neuroendocrine-immunologic derangements.
  • The practice of yoga asanas seems to inhibit physiologic stress in reducing the stress hormone (salivary cortisol), and improving physiologic and metabolic regulation (e.g., decreasing systolic blood pressure and heart rate, fasting blood glucose, cholesterol and low density lipoprotein); these are beneficial effects that may help prevent or delay vascular aging.
  • Long-term sleep pattern misalignment with the 24-hour clock, such as due to insomnia or shift work, can interfere with rhythmic molecular cycling and contribute to vascular aging changes.

Friday – the connection between physical activity and vascular ageing

  • There are clear dose-dependent effects of lifelong (>25 years) exercise training on human arterial stiffness that vary according to the site and size of the arteries.
  • 4–5 days/week of committed exercise over a lifetime are necessary to preserve healthy vascular ageing, especially of the large central arteries.
  • Casual exercise training of two to three times per week may be sufficient for middle-sized arteries like the carotid to minimize arterial stiffening with ageing

We also know that the vascular ageing process starts from early life, and that it is important to raise awareness from a young age.

For this reason, as part of the awareness week, we introduced a children’s drawing contest.

Montage of childrens illustrations on heart health

What’s next for VascAgeNet?

The awareness week was a great success. People from all over the globe got involved and pictures were posted from 37 countries! Check #vascularage22 and #arteryawareness22 to discover the posts made to raise awareness on vascular age. We hope to build on the success of this year and make next year’s event even bigger!  

The awareness week is just one of the ways that we are engaging with the public, we have also created an animation, illustration, and posters that have been translated into 24 languages. Discover them here.

We are also currently working on animation aimed at 8- to 12-year-olds that will be ready in the coming weeks so watch this space.

Additional information

Get in touch via our website and follow us on Twitter @VascAgeNet and Facebook VascAgeNet 18216 to stay tuned about the results of the Action, events, opportunities and more!

View the Action website

View the Network website