The influence of physical activity performed at 20-40 years of age on cardiovascular outcomes in medical patients aged 65-75

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Francesco Cipollini
Gualberto Gussoni *
Roberta Pacifici
Silvia Rossi
Erminio Bonizzoni
Antonella Valerio
Adolfo Iacopino
Audenzio D’Angelo
Domenico Panuccio
Ido Iori
Antonino Mazzone
Piergiorgio Zuccaro
on behalf of the FADOI-ISS Study Group
(*) Corresponding Author:
Gualberto Gussoni | gualberto_gussoni@yahoo.it

Abstract

Introduction: Several studies show that physical activity can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but the vast majority of these focus on the short- to intermediate-term benefits or refer to very specific populations. This observational study was conducted to determine whether physical activity performed during the third or fourth decade of life influences the occurrence of cardiovascular events in patients aged 65-75 years.
Materials and methods: We studied a cohort of 2191 unselected patients admitted to Internal Medicine Departments. Data were collected on the patients’ medical history and their physical activity level when they were 20 to 40 years old. For the latter purpose, we used a specific questionnaire to assess the levels of physical activity related to the patients’ job, daily life, leisure time, and sports.
Results: Almost half (44.2%) of the patients we evaluated reported moderate-intense physical activity when they were 20-40 years old. Around one third (35.8%) of the patients had experienced at least one major cardiovascular event, and there was a slight trend towards fewer cardiovascular events in patients with histories of physical activity (mean risk reduction: 4%, multivariate analysis). More evident benefits were observed in the subgroup of patients with diabetes, where cardiovascular outcomes were much better in patients who had been physically active than in those with sedentary life-styles (mean risk reduction: 24%).
Conclusions: Given its design, our study may have underestimated the cardiovascular benefits of physical activity. Nonetheless, our results suggest that moderate-intense exercise during young adulthood may have limited beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease in old age, except in specific high-risk populations (diabetic patients). More evident benefits are probably associated with regular physical activity throughout life.

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