From a sitting position, how far can you reach past your toes? Especially if you are middle-aged or older, the answer could indicate how flexible you are — and also how flexible your arteries are. However, if you are stiff and can’t reach too far, don’t despair. New research suggests stretching exercises that increase flexibility could prevent or reverse stiffening of arteries.

In a study entitled “Poor trunk flexibility is associated with arterial stiffening”, just published in the October edition of the American Journal of Physiology, researchers found that how well people age 40 and older performed on a sit-and-reach-past-their-toes test was an accurate way to assess the flexibility of their arteries. So, because arterial stiffness often precedes cardiovascular disease, this simple, non-drug, non-invasive test could become a quick measure of a person’s risk for early death from heart attack or stroke.

Credit: S. L. Baker