Purpose: Although athletes demonstrate lower cardiovascular risk and superior vascular function compared with sedentary peers, they are not exempted from cardiac events (i.e., myocardial infarction [MI]). The presence of an MI is associated with increased cardiovascular risk and impaired vascular function. We tested the hypothesis that lifelong exercise training in post-MI athletes, similar as in healthy controls, is associated with a superior peripheral vascular function and structure compared with a sedentary lifestyle in post-MI individuals.
Methods: We included 18 veteran athletes (ATH) (>20 yr) and 18 sedentary controls (SED). To understand the effect of lifelong exercise training after MI, we included 20 veteran post-MI athletes (ATH + MI) and 19 sedentary post-MI controls (SED + MI). Participants underwent comprehensive assessment using vascular ultrasound (vascular stiffness, intima-media thickness, and endothelium (in)dependent mediated dilatation). Lifetime risk score was calculated for a 30-yr risk prediction of cardiovascular disease mortality of the participants.
Results: ATH demonstrated a lower vascular stiffness and smaller femoral intima-media thickness compared with SED. Vascular function and structure did not differ between ATH + MI and SED + MI. ATH (4.0% ± 5.1%) and ATH + MI (6.1% ± 3.7%) had a significantly better lifetime risk score compared with their sedentary peers (SED: 6.9% ± 3.7% and SED + MI: 9.3% ± 4.8%). ATH + MI had no secondary events versus two recurrent MI and six elective percutaneous coronary interventions within SED + MI (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Although veteran post-MI athletes did not have a superior peripheral vascular function and structure compared with their sedentary post-MI peers, benefits of lifelong exercise training in veteran post-MI athletes relate to a better cardiovascular risk profile and lower occurrence of secondary events.