Physical Activity Helps Prevent Vascular Atherosclerosis
Endothelium dysfunction has been proposed as a possible contributor to cardiovascular damage. Endothelium, the thin lining of arterial walls, plays a primary role in the modulation of vascular tone and structure through the production of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide in turn acts to protect vessel walls from developing atherosclerosis and thrombosis.
Evidence that physical exercise can improve endothelium-dependent vasodilation led to the current investigation. The study population included 12 young and elderly sedentary subjects (average age: 26.9 and 62.9 years, respectively) and 11 young and 14 elderly matched athletes (average age: 27.5 and 66.4 years, respectively). Athletes included long-distance runners, triathletes and cyclists; sedentary subjects performed no regular exercise.
Apart from age, the four study groups were similar in terms of blood pressure, body mass index, and plasma total cholesterol and glucose levels. However, young and elderly athletes had decreased resting heart rate, increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and decreased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels compared with sedentary subjects. Results also showed that blood vessel function was also quite similar in elderly athletes compared with younger sedentary subjects, suggesting the value of physical activity in protecting the inner lining of the blood vessels. The authors speculated that the mechanism behind these results is most likely "the restoration of nitric oxide availability consequent to prevention of production of oxidative stress."
Taddei S, Galetta F, Virdis A, et al. Physical activity prevents age-related impairment in nitric oxide availability in elderly athletes. Circulation