Habitual physical activity and vascular aging in a young to middle-age population at low cardiovascular risk

Stroke. 2007 Sep;38(9):2549-55. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.107.484949. Epub 2007 Jul 26.


Background and purpose: Regular endurance exercise has been shown to reduce the age-related increase in arterial stiffness that is thought to contribute to cardiovascular risk. The aim of this study was to evaluate the influence of age and habitual physical activity on carotid artery wall thickness and stiffness in a population of young to middle-age subjects at low cardiovascular risk.

Methods: The study population consisted of 432 healthy subjects (166 men; mean+/-SD age, 43+/-8 years; range, 30 to 60 years) free of carotid atherosclerosis and with low coronary heart disease risk, as determined by the Framingham prediction score sheet. All subjects underwent B-mode ultrasonography of the extracranial carotid arteries and physical activity assessment by actigraph, an accelerometer capable of monitoring the intensity and duration of body movements. The intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery was measured on ultrasound images, along with systodiastolic changes in luminal diameter, and indices of carotid stiffness were calculated.

Results: Intima-media thickness and carotid stiffness increased with age in both men and women (r=0.24 to 0.52, P<0.001). The magnitude of objectively assessed daily physical activity was negatively related to indices of carotid stiffness (r from -0.20 to -0.25, P<0.001) but not to intima-media thickness. In multivariate regression analyses that included several cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, blood pressure, plasma lipids, and smoking habits, age and physical activity were independently related to carotid stiffness.

Conclusions: This study provides cross-sectional evidence that habitual physical activity is inversely related to the age-dependent increase in carotid wall stiffness in a young to middle-age population at low risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Carotid Artery, Common / anatomy & histology
  • Carotid Artery, Common / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Ultrasonography
  • Vascular Resistance / physiology*