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Leisure time physical activity and early atherosclerosis: the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis Study

  • Cheryl K Nordstrom
    Affiliations
    Department of Preventive Medicine (CKN, KMD, CNBM, AS, JHD), Institute for Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

    Division of Cardiology (CKN), St. John Hospital and Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan, USA
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  • Kathleen M Dwyer
    Affiliations
    Department of Preventive Medicine (CKN, KMD, CNBM, AS, JHD), Institute for Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
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  • C.Noel Bairey Merz
    Affiliations
    Department of Preventive Medicine (CKN, KMD, CNBM, AS, JHD), Institute for Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA

    Division of Cardiology (CNBM), Department of Medicine, Cedars-Sinai Research Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA
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  • Anne Shircore
    Affiliations
    Department of Preventive Medicine (CKN, KMD, CNBM, AS, JHD), Institute for Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
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  • James H Dwyer
    Correspondence
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to James H. Dwyer, PhD, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1000 S. Fremont Avenue, Unit #8, Suite 5122, Alhambra, California 91803, USA
    Affiliations
    Department of Preventive Medicine (CKN, KMD, CNBM, AS, JHD), Institute for Prevention Research, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
    Search for articles by this author

      Abstract

      Purpose

      Some studies of leisure time physical activity find a cardiovascular benefit for moderate activity, whereas others find benefit only for regular vigorous activity. We examined the relation between physical activity and 3-year progression of carotid atherosclerosis.

      Methods

      Baseline examinations were conducted during 1995 to 1996 with two follow-up examinations at 1.5-year intervals. Intima-media thickness of the common carotid arteries was determined by B-mode ultrasound in a cohort of 500 randomly sampled women and men, aged 40 to 60 years, who were asymptomatic for cardiovascular disease. Sedentary leisure activity was defined as the lowest quartile of a general activity measure, whereas vigorous activity was defined as aerobic activity ≥3.5 times per week. The remainder defined the moderate activity group. Analyses were adjusted for confounding variables.

      Results

      The mean (± SE) age- and sex-adjusted rates of progression of intima-media thickness declined from 14.3 ± 1.7 microns per year in sedentary subjects, to 10.2 ± 1.0 microns per year in moderately active subjects, to 5.5 ± 1.5 microns per year in vigorously active subjects (P for trend <0.0001), and remained statistically significant after adjustment for other confounding factors (P for trend = 0.0004). Compared with the moderate activity group, the vigorous activity group had lower body mass index and resting heart rate and increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol level, whereas the sedentary group had an increased resting heart rate. Workplace activity was not protective.

      Conclusion

      Physical activity during leisure is inversely related to the progression of atherosclerosis in the carotid artery. This benefit appears to increase throughout the activity continuum.
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