Surprising Results from Long-Term Study of Coronary Risks

October 18,2017

One thing that is consistent about a long-term study is it takes a long time. In the mid-1980s, more than five thousands participants joined a study on exercise and the risk of coronary artery calcification (CAC). This heart condition leads to arterial blockage due to a buildup of plaque in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. The baseline cohort consisted of black and white men and women aged 18 to 30 years. Eventually, 3,175 participants were included in the 25-year study known as the Coronary Artery Development in Young Adults (CARDIA).

The CARDIA study was divided into three groups of individuals: those who exercised less than 2.5 hours per week, those who exercised 2.5 hours per week and those who exercised 7.5 hours per week. During the final year of the study, computerized tomography scans were used to determine the presence of CAC. At the time of digital imaging, participants varied in age between 43 and 55 years. This allowed researchers to study the risk for coronary disease in relation to known physical exercise patterns from both men and women's young adulthood.

After analyzing the data in terms of race and sex, the team concluded the group at the highest risk was white men in the 7.5 hours per week group. Members of this group were 86 percent more likely to develop CAC than their counterparts. Black men in 7.5 hours per week group were not significantly at risk, and neither were women, regardless of their racial background. However, before you trade your exercise regimen for your sofa, scientists say the findings should not be taken as a reason to stop exercising. Continuing studies will focus on the plaque buildup to determine whether CAC was due to stress on the arteries from additional exercise as well as other biological mechanisms.

Don't forget. If you want to reduce your risk of coronary disease, moderate-intensity activities produce a 14% reduction in chance for developing coronary heart disease. So, get off the sofa and get moving.