Left ventricular diastolic function and carotid artery wall in elderly athletes and sedentary controls

Biomed Pharmacother. 2004 Oct;58(8):437-42. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2004.08.008.


Advancing age is characterized by structural and functional change of left ventricle (LV) and large elastic arteries. Recent advances in tissue Doppler imaging (TDI) and integrated backscatter (IBS), new ultrasound tools, have allowed non-invasive assessment of structural and functional characterization of myocardium and artery wall. Our aim was to compare LV diastolic function and carotid artery remodeling in elderly athletes and sedentary controls. Twenty-five elderly athletes (males, aged 68.6 +/- 4.2 years) were compared to 25 age-sex-matched sedentary controls. All the subjects underwent either conventional Doppler echocardiography with pulsed TDI to evaluate LV diastolic function, and conventional ultrasonography and integrated backscatter (IBS) analysis to evaluate the carotid wall. Corrected IBS values (C-IBS) were obtained by subtracting the IBS value of the adventitia. Body mass index and blood pressure were not different in the two groups; athletes showed lower heart rate (P < 0.0001) and, as expected, higher LV mass than sedentary subjects (P < 0.0001). Transmitral Doppler analysis showed in trained subjects a significantly lower peak A and a higher E/A ratio (P < 0.001). On regards to TDI measurements, athletes exhibited a higher Em, a lower Am, and, subsequently, an increased Em/Am ratio of both lateral wall and septum (P < 0.0001). The IVRTm was shorter in trained subjects (P < 0.001). Athletes showed a lower C-IBS (-26.8 +/- 2.9 vs. -23.4 +/- 3.8 dB, P < 0.001) and a smaller intima-media thickness (IMT: 0.66 +/- 0.14 vs. 0.80 +/- 0.18 mm, P < 0.001) respect to sedentary controls. Moreover, a significant direct correlation was found between Em/Am of LV septal and lateral wall and C-IBS values (respectively, r = 0.62 and r = 0.56, P < 0.001). Thus the aging heart manifests structural and functional changes in response to physical activity. The expected pattern of cardiac and arterial alterations normally seen in response to age is modified in the older athletes, suggesting the exercise training is an effective stimulus in shaping arterial structure and left ventricular function in older heart. It would appear that pulsed TDI and IBS analysis may play an important role in detecting training-induced LV and carotid artery structural and functional modifications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Echocardiography, Doppler
  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ventricular Function, Left / physiology*