Staying Fit During Childhood Lowers Risk Of Atherosclerosis in Adulthood, Study Shows

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A study by researchers at Linköping University suggests a link between the fitness levels of middle-aged men in their youth and their current heart health. Fit adolescents were found to have a significantly lower risk of atherosclerosis nearly four decades late.

Atherosclerosis, the thickening of arteries caused by plaque buildup, is identified as a significant factor linking physical fitness to cardiovascular disease, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Poor physical fitness increase atherosclerosis risk

Recent research confirms the enduring connection between physical fitness and long-term health. It highlights a concerning global trend: today’s youth exhibit lower fitness levels compared to previous generations. Pontus Henriksson, a senior associate professor at Linköping University, emphasizes the significance of these findings for present-day youth.

Previous research has shown a connection between poor physical fitness in youth and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. However, the exact mechanism behind this link remains unclear. A key risk factor for future cardiovascular issues is atherosclerosis.

In the recent study, researchers sought to explore whether physical fitness during adolescence might be related to atherosclerosis much later in life. Confirming this connection would suggest that atherosclerosis plays a role in the observed link between youth physical fitness and cardiovascular disease risk.

Cardiovascular fitness linked to muscle strength

Researchers conducted a project linking data from the Swedish Military Conscription Register to SCAPIS, a study on heart and lung health in older individuals. Data from nearly 9,000 men, including their health at conscription was analyzed. Coronary arteries were assessed using CCTA, a first in using this technology to assess plaques related to physical fitness at a young age. Two types of plaques were focused on, including calcium plaques, historically easier to measure.

The study investigated the correlation between cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength in youth with the risk of developing atherosclerosis later in life. Researchers examined both calcified and non-calcified plaques in coronary arteries, emphasizing the latter’s higher risk for heart attacks. The results showed that good cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength during youth were linked to a reduced risk of atherosclerosis almost four decades later.

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