Physical Fitness is Associated with Healthier Arteries in Children and Adolescents
Dysfunction of the circulatory system is the number one cause of mortality globally. While blood lipid imbalances are often to blame, an important missing link that contributes to the burden of poor cardiovascular health is decreased arterial elasticity.
Pathological changes, including increased carotid intima–media thickness (CIMT), increased arterial pressure and decreased endothelial function are known to start in children as early as four years old.
New studies suggest that increased physical exercise is linked with beneficial changes in the vascular architecture and decreases in whole-body inflammation.
Recent Studies and Abstracts
Impact of physical exercise/activity on vascular structure and inflammation in pediatric populations: A literature review
To describe the effects of physical exercise/activity on the vascular architecture of children and adolescents, as well as to identify the effects of inflammation and sedentary behaviors on this relationship.
Potentially relevant articles were identified in the databases MEDLINE and PubMed covering the period from 2000 to 2015. No language restrictions were applied.
Thirteen articles were found that included obese boys and girls in their samples (aged 9–19). Six interventional studies assessed inflammation and in five of these, physical exercise decreased inflammation. In 10 studies, vascular architecture was affected by physical exercise/activity.
The impact of physical exercise on vascular architecture and inflammation seems relevant, but has been mainly investigated in obese groups. Health professionals should act together in organized interventions in schools, targeting the promotion of higher physical activity levels in children and adolescents.
Obesity is an independent cardiovascular risk factor that contributes to the development of atherosclerosis. Subclinical forms of the disease can be assessed via sonographic measurement of carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) and distensibility – both may already be altered in childhood. As childhood obesity increases to an alarming extent, this study compares vascular data of obese with normal weight boys and girls to investigate the influence of obesity on cIMT and distensibility of the carotid arteries.
cIMT and distensibility of 46 obese children (27 girls) aged 7-17 years were compared with measures of 46 sex- and age-matched normal weight controls. cIMT and distensibility were measured by B- and M-mode ultrasound and expressed as standard deviation scores (SDS). Arterial distensibility was defined by arterial compliance (AC), elastic modulus (Ep), stiffness index β (β), and local pulse wave velocity β (PWV β).
Obese girls had significantly stiffer arteries compared with normal weight girls (Ep SDS 0.64 ± 1.24 vs. 0 ± 1.06, β SDS 0.6 ± 1.17 vs. -0.01 ± 1.06 p < .01, PWV β 0.54 ± 1.2 vs. -0.12 ± 1.05 p < .05). No significant differences were observed for boys. In multiregression analysis, BMI significantly influenced Ep, β and PWV β but not cIMT and AC. Conclusions:
Obese girls seemed to be at higher cardiovascular risk than boys, expressed by stiffer arteries in obese girls compared with normal weight girls. Overall, BMI negatively influenced parameters of arterial stiffness (Ep, β and PWV β) but not compliance or cIMT.