Association between physical activity and retinal microvascular signs: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study

Microcirculation. 2010 Jul;17(5):381-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1549-8719.2010.00033.x.


Objective: To examine the association between physical activity measured during leisure, sport, and work and retinal microvascular signs.

Methods: Participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, a population-based cross-sectional study, had retinal photographs taken at their third follow up visit (1993-1995). Retinal microvascular signs were assessed using a standardized protocol and retinal vascular caliber by a computer-assisted method. Leisure, sport, and work-related physical activity levels were determined through a modified Baecke physical activity questionnaire.

Results: A higher level of physical activity during sport and work was significantly associated with a lower prevalence of arteriovenous (AV) nicking, wider venular caliber, and retinopathy. In multivariate models, persons with a level of sport-related physical activity above the median were less likely to have AV nicking (odds ratio [OR] = 0.87; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.78-0.97) and wider retinal venules (OR = 0.91; 95% CI: 0.83-0.99). Persons with a level of work-related physical activity above the median were less likely to have diabetic retinopathy (OR = 0.66, 95% CI: 0.51-0.85).

Conclusions: In this cross-sectional analyzes, higher levels of physical activity was associated with a lower prevalence of retinal microvascular abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Atherosclerosis / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Retinopathy / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Retinal Vessels / pathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Work