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Youth fitness linked to lower atherosclerosis risk in middle-aged men

Youth fitness linked to lower atherosclerosis risk in middle-aged men

Men who were physically fit once they were young had a lower risk of atherosclerosis almost 40 years later, based on a study led by researchers at Linköping University, Sweden. The findings, published within the British Journal of Sports Medicine, suggest that atherosclerosis is one among the mechanisms behind the link between physical fitness and heart problems.

Our results strengthen the notion that physical fitness is linked to health outcomes much later in life. The findings are worrying within the sense that there’s a clear global trend indicating that young individuals are less fit now than when these study participants were young within the Nineteen Seventies and 80s. Due to this fact, I imagine that these findings could also be much more vital for those growing up now.”

Pontus Henriksson, Senior Associate Professor, Department of Health, Medicine and Caring Sciences, Linköping University

It’s well-known that being physically unfit at a young age is linked to an increased risk of heart problems much later in life. However the mechanism behind this finding is just not fully understood. A very important risk marker for future heart problems is the occurrence of atherosclerosis, which involves the buildup of plaques within the arteries. The international research team behind the present study due to this fact wanted to research whether physical fitness in adolescence is linked to atherosclerosis much later, which in that case would indicate that atherosclerosis is a possible mechanism behind the observed link to heart problems.

Within the study, the researchers linked information from the Swedish Military Conscription Register to SCAPIS (the Swedish Cardiopulmonary Bioimage Study), a big population study on heart and lung health in individuals aged 50 to 64 years. For nearly 9,000 men who participated in SCAPIS, data on them at conscription at age 18 from 1972 to 1987 were also available. Considered one of the strengths of the study is that it relies on the overall population and that the lads have been followed for a very long time, a mean of 38 years.

The researchers examined the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the guts muscle, using coronary CT angiography, CCTA. The study is the primary to make use of this state-of-the-art technology to look at plaques within the coronary arteries in relation to physical fitness at a young age. As well as, the researchers studied two several types of plaques within the coronary arteries. Plaques with calcium deposits are easy to measure and have long been the main target.

“We measured not only calcified plaques within the coronary arteries, but additionally non-calcified plaques, that are considered more problematic. They might be more prone to rupture, which might cause heart attacks, and have a worse prognosis,” says ángel Herraiz-Adillo, postdoc in the identical research group.

“We see in our study that each good cardiorespiratory fitness and good muscle strength in youth are related to a lower risk of atherosclerosis within the coronary arteries almost 40 years later,” says Pontus Henriksson.

The researchers also examined atherosclerosis in the massive arteries from the guts as much as the brain with ultrasound.

Since only men did military service in Sweden on the time, the researchers have only been able to research the association between physical fitness and atherosclerosis in men. It’s due to this fact impossible to attract conclusions for girls from this particular study.

The study was funded by, amongst others, the Heart-Lung Foundation, which is the primary funder of SCAPIS, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, Vinnova and the Joanna Cocozza Foundation for Kid’s Medical Research. Several other researchers from Linköping University also participated within the work on the study: Karin Rådholm, Carl Johan östgren, Kristofer Hedman and Sara Higueras-Fresnillo.


Journal reference:

Herraiz-Adillo, Á., et al. (2024). Physical fitness in male adolescents and atherosclerosis in middle age: a population-based cohort study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2023-107663.


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