Background: Sedentary aging is associated with oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction. The aim of this study was to evaluate the relationship between long-term physical activity, plasma antioxidant status, and conduit artery endothelial function in young and older healthy men.
Methods: In young (n = 16) and older athletes (n = 16) and in matched healthy sedentary subjects, endothelium-dependent flow-mediated dilation (FMD) and endothelium-independent response to glyceryl trinitrate (GTN), 400 microg, were measured in the brachial artery from high-resolution ultrasonography. Plasma malondialdehyde (MDA) and antioxidant capacity as total oxyradical scavenging capacity (TOSC) were also evaluated.
Results: We found that FMD was lower (< or =0.01) in sedentary older subjects (2.3% +/- 1.0%) as compared with older athletes (5.3% +/- 3.2%) and both sedentary (5.4% +/- 2.0%) and athletically trained (6.1% +/- 3.2%) young subjects. Sedentary older subjects showed higher (P < or = .05) MDA levels and lower (P < .0001) plasma antioxidant capacity as compared with the other subgroups, whereas in older athletes MDA levels and antioxidant capacity were similar to those observed in the young subgroups. In the whole group, FMD, but not GTN, was negatively related to age (r = -0.31, P < .05) and directly related (P < or = .01) to VO2max (r = 0.49) and TOSC against peroxyl (r = 0.69) and hydroxyl radicals (r = 0.53). In the multivariate analysis, TOSC against peroxyl radicals resulted as the most significant predictor of FMD (R2 = 0.60; P = .003).
Conclusions: These results suggest that regular physical activity is associated with preserved antioxidant defenses and endothelial function in older individuals.