No one wants to be an old stiff — not you, not your joints, and not your arteries. Stiffening of the arteries (also known as atherosclerosis) is a major risk factor for heart disease. It happens when cholesterol and fat build up along your arterial walls and harden into plaque. These plaques can block blood flow, weaken the walls of arteries, or even break off and cause heart attacks and strokes. That’s why you want to keep your arteries clean, smooth and supple. While age can take a toll on the flexibility of your blood vessels, exercise can combat those changes. The catch: It can’t just be a leisurely walk around the block. If that’s all you can manage right now, don’t give up. It’s a great start! But to really protect your arteries, you need to engage in exercise that will get your heart pumping — and you need to do it often. When you’re out for a bike ride, take the hilly route, or race your partner to the end of the block. Your heart will thank you for it.