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Keeping fit may delay onset of dyslipidaemia

Men with low fitness levels had poor cholesterol levels 15 years younger than fit men

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Maintaining a good level of cardiovascular fitness might delay the onset of dyslipidaemia in men by as much as 15 years, researchers have found. They suggest in their study*, published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, that by promoting an active lifestyle doctors could help cut the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.              

US researchers used data on 11,418 men aged 20-90 years who had had health examinations in Dallas, Texas, between 1970 and 2006 as part of the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. They had records of the men’s total cholesterol, non-high-density (LDL) lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. They assessed participants’ cardiorespiratory fitness using a treadmill test and standardised the results for age before categorising the men as having low, middle or high levels of fitness; and measured their cholesterol and triglyceride levels after an overnight fast.

It was already known that people’s cholesterol levels often start to rise until about middle age and then start to drop again, and in this study total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides all increased up to a certain age and then decreased; the inverse was true for HDL cholesterol.

However, there was a fitness-related difference in the timing of this change. Men with lower cardiorespiratory fitness were already at high risk of developing high cholesterol in their early thirties, but those in the high-fitness category didn’t experience this until their mid-forties, on average. Furthermore, men in the low-fitness group reached abnormal HDL and non-HDL cholesterol levels in their early twenties and mid-thirties, but in men with high fitness, HDL and non-HDL levels remained normal throughout their entire lifespan.

The study authors said that although age-related changes in cholesterol levels are usually unfavourable, their own findings suggest that improving cardiorespiratory fitness levels may delay the onset of dyslipidaemia. They went on: “Promoting this healthy lifestyle factor may also help to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.”

The authors of an accompanying editorial** backed the researchers’ call for more emphasis on the importance of promoting physical fitness. They commented: “The prevalence of physical inactivity in the United States continues to rise, especially in younger age groups. It is important to now direct efforts towards translating these findings to clinical and preventative practice. Greater emphasis needs to be made on educating the public on the importance of exercise and clinicians should help counsel patients on fitness regimens.”

* J Am Coll Cardiol. The Effect of Cardiorespiratory Fitness on Age-Related Lipids and Lipoproteins. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. DOI:10.1016/J.JACC.2015.03.517
** J Am Coll Cardiol. Improving Fitness to Achieve Health. Journal of the American College of Cardiology  DOI:10.1016/J.JACC.2015.03.542

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