Effects of age, physical training, and physical fitness on coronary heart disease risk factors in older track athletes at twenty-year follow-up

Larry J. Mengelkoch, Michael L. Pollock, Marian C. Limacher, James E. Graves, Rachel B. Shireman, William J. Riley, David T. Lowenthal, Arthur S. Leon

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26 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To compare current coronary heart disease (CHD) risk factor values in older athletes with mid-life measures and to examine the associations between changes in CHD risk factors with aging, physical training, and physical fitness. DESIGN: Prospective study with three longitudinal evaluation points: initial (T1), 10-year (T2), and 20-year (T3). Subjects were selected because of their elite status in Masters track competition. SETTING: University and medical center laboratories PARTICIPANTS: Participants were 60 to 92 years of age and included 21 of the initial 27 subjects. At T3, subjects were divided into three groups, based on physical activity levels: high intensity (H), remained elite in national and international competition (n = 9); moderate intensity (M) continued frequent rigorous endurance training but rarely competed (n = 10); and low intensity (L) greatly reduced their training volume and intensity (n = 2). MEASUREMENTS: Smoking history; family history of coronary or cerebrovascular disease; resting blood pressure; resting electrocardiogram (ECG); serum total cholesterol, plasma glucose; body weight, % body fat, body mass index, waist:hip ratio; training pace and mileage; maximal oxygen consumption VO2 max). MAIN RESULTS: Several risk factors (smoking, diabetes, obesity) were never present, and the prevalence of other risk factors (family history of cardiovascular disease, abnormal resting ECG)remained low through T3 (≤ 14% of subjects). Mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure remained low without medication, but diastolic blood pressure measurements had the greatest redistribution between evaluation periods of any risk factor (r =. 16, P = .479, T1 to T2). Mean total cholesterol was lower at T2 (-13%, P = .005) and T3 (-14%, P = .019) compared with T1. Change in VO2 max was correlated with changes in body weight (r = -.44, P = .048) and % fat (r = -.52, P =- .015) from T1 to T2. Whereas age was correlated to changes in systolic blood pressure (r = -.61, P = .003) and total cholesterol (r = -.49, P = .023) from T2 to T3. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of CHD risk factors remained low, and mean risk factor values remained low and generally stable in older athletes who had maintained habitual exercise training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1446-1453
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1997


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