Cardiovascular risk and clinical factors in athletes: 10 years of evaluation

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jun;43(6):943-50. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318203d5cb.


Purpose: Preparticipation screening in athletes is a very current but controversial theme. Part of this controversy is due to the cost benefit, especially when the screening is merely used as a prevention of sudden cardiac death caused by rare and hereditary diseases. The purpose of this study was to describe the prevalence of preexisting diseases, cardiovascular risk factor for cardiovascular diseases development, and hematological profile in a population of amateur and professional athletes.

Methods: Data of 623 athletes (529 men and 94 women), aged 13-77 yr, were analyzed to detect preexisting diseases. The variables total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, fasting glucose, body mass index, hemoglobin, hematocrit, and ferritin were analyzed in two groups according to age, that is, younger and older 35 yr old, and their prevalence (%) and distribution in quartiles were presented. χ test and Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients between variables were applied, and P < 0.05 was adopted for significance.

Results: Hypertension was the most prevalent preexisting diseases, although the data showed low prevalence of cardiomyopathy. Cardiovascular risk factors were prevalent in both genders. There were positive correlations between cardiovascular risk factors and age and between body mass index and lipid levels in male athletes. Also, there was a high prevalence of low ferritin levels for women, with positive correlation between the levels of hemoglobin and ferritin.

Conclusions: In the present study, hypertension was the most prevalent diagnosed disease, and cardiovascular risk factors showed important prevalence, especially in athletes older than 35 yr. Although physical training represents a cardioprotective factor to the onset of cardiovascular disease, it does not exclude the prevalence of risk factors and diseases in athletes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Athletes*
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiomyopathies / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hemoglobins
  • Lipids
  • Ferritins