Fitness in young adulthood protects heart health in middle age

December 16, 2003

Fitness in early adulthood greatly reduces the likelihood of developing high blood pressure and diabetes -- both major risk factors for heart disease and stroke -- in middle age, a new study has found.

Reporting in the Dec. 17 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, Northwestern University researcher Mercedes Carnethon and colleagues found that fitness also decreases risk for metabolic syndrome, a collection of factors that includes excess abdominal fat, elevated blood pressure and levels of triglycerides and low levels of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" cholesterol.

Improving fitness greatly reduces - by as much as 50 percent - risk for diabetes and metabolic syndrome, said lead author Carnethon, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

"If all the young adults in our study had been fit, there would have been nearly a third fewer cases of high blood pressure, diabetes and metabolic syndrome," Carnethon said.

"Given the epidemic of obesity in the United States and the decline in people's physical activity, it's important that Americans take steps to improve their physical fitness," she said.

Heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death for Americans. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, nearly 13 million Americans have heart disease and nearly 5 million have had a stroke.

The research is the first, large observational study to assess the role of fitness on healthy young adults developing risk factors for heart disease. Data were derived from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study from 1985 to 2001.

Over 4,400 men and women aged 18 to 30 participated in the study and were followed up for 15 years, but about 2,500 had their cardiopulmonary fitness retested after seven years to measure changes in fitness.

Fitness was measured with an exercise treadmill test, which included up to nine, two-minute stages of progressive difficulty. Women who completed less than six minutes and men who completed less than 10 minutes of exercise were classified as having "low fitness." Women who were classified as "moderately fit" could exercise six to nine minutes; moderately fit men could exercise 10 to 12 minutes. Those who completed more exercise were classified as "highly fit."

Results of the study showed that persons with low or moderate fitness had twice the risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and metabolic syndrome as those who were highly fit. Risk increased directly as fitness level dropped. Weight gain was inversely related to fitness over the course of the study. Those who were obese tended to be less fit: Of those who were obese, 68 percent had low fitness, while among those who were not obese, 51 percent were highly fit.

Interestingly, improving fitness had no significant effect on reducing high blood pressure or low-density lipoprotein, the so-called "bad" cholesterol.

"This may be because low-density lipoprotein levels are affected largely by genetics and diet, and less by fitness. The key point is that the development of risk factors for heart disease and stroke isn't just the natural result of aging," Carnethon said.
-end-
Collaborating with Carnethon on this study were Kiang Liu, professor of preventive medicine at the Feinberg School; and researchers from the Nemours Cardiac Center and Thomas Jefferson University, Wilmington, Del.; Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, Oakland, Calif.; University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis; and University of Alabama at Birmingham. This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

KEYWORDS: fitness, obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure

Northwestern University

Related Diabetes Articles from Brightsurf:

New diabetes medication reduced heart event risk in those with diabetes and kidney disease
Sotagliflozin - a type of medication known as an SGLT2 inhibitor primarily prescribed for Type 2 diabetes - reduces the risk of adverse cardiovascular events for patients with diabetes and kidney disease.

Diabetes drug boosts survival in patients with type 2 diabetes and COVID-19 pneumonia
Sitagliptin, a drug to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetes, also improves survival in diabetic patients hospitalized with COVID-19, suggests a multicenter observational study in Italy.

Making sense of diabetes
Throughout her 38-year nursing career, Laurel Despins has progressed from a bedside nurse to a clinical nurse specialist and has worked in medical, surgical and cardiac intensive care units.

Helping teens with type 1 diabetes improve diabetes control with MyDiaText
Adolescence is a difficult period of development, made more complex for those with Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM).

Diabetes-in-a-dish model uncovers new insights into the cause of type 2 diabetes
Researchers have developed a novel 'disease-in-a-dish' model to study the basic molecular factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, uncovering the potential existence of major signaling defects both inside and outside of the classical insulin signaling cascade, and providing new perspectives on the mechanisms behind insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes and possibly opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics for the disease.

Tele-diabetes to manage new-onset diabetes during COVID-19 pandemic
Two new case studies highlight the use of tele-diabetes to manage new-onset type 1 diabetes in an adult and an infant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Genetic profile may predict type 2 diabetes risk among women with gestational diabetes
Women who go on to develop type 2 diabetes after having gestational, or pregnancy-related, diabetes are more likely to have particular genetic profiles, suggests an analysis by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions.

Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
Children and youth of mothers who had gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at increased risk of diabetes themselves, according to new research published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Two diabetes medications don't slow progression of type 2 diabetes in youth
In youth with impaired glucose tolerance or recent-onset type 2 diabetes, neither initial treatment with long-acting insulin followed by the drug metformin, nor metformin alone preserved the body's ability to make insulin, according to results published online June 25 in Diabetes Care.

People with diabetes visit the dentist less frequently despite link between diabetes, oral health
Adults with diabetes are less likely to visit the dentist than people with prediabetes or without diabetes, finds a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine.

Read More: Diabetes News and Diabetes Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.