Physically Active White Men at High Risk for Plaque Buildup in Arteries

Medical Express, October 17, 2017

White men who exercise at high levels are 86 percent more likely than people who exercise at low levels to experience a buildup of plaque in the heart arteries by middle age, a new study suggests.

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CAC is a clinical measure of the accumulation of calcium and plaque in the arteries of the heart. The presence and amount of CAC, is a significant warning sign to doctors that a patient may be at risk for developing heart disease.

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Researchers categorized participants into three distinct trajectory groups, based on physical activity patterns.

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“We expected to see that higher levels of physical activity over time would be associated with lower levels of CAC.”

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When these findings were stratified by race and gender, they found that white men were at the highest risk-they were 86 percent more likely to have CAC. There was no higher odds of CAC for black participants who exercised at this level.

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Similar population-based cohort studies on cumulate exercise dose have caused some controversy by showing U-shaped trends of association between physical activity and disease risk.

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“Because the study results show a significantly different level of risk between black and white participants based on long-term exercise trajectories, the data provides rationale for further investigation, especially by race, into the other biological mechanisms for CAC risk in people with very high levels of physical activity,” said Laddu.

“High levels of exercise over time may cause stress on the arteries leading to higher CAC,” said Rana, “however this plaque buildup may well be of the more stable kind, and thus less likely to rupture and causes heart attack, which was not evaluated in this study.” Rana says they plan to evaluate for outcomes, such as heart attacks and death, next.

While the study suggests that white men who exercise at high levels may have a higher burden of CAC, “it does not suggest that anyone should stop exercising.”

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