Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and incapacity worldwide. Signs of atherosclerosis can be present in a person’s large arteries as early as the adolescent years. Peter Nordstrom, from Umea University (Sweden), and colleagues analyzed data collected on 743,498 Swedish men, examined during conscription in the military at an average age of 18.5 years. After adjusting for compounding factors, an increase of one standard deviation – or 15% – in the level of aerobic fitness at the age of 18 years associated with an 18% lower risk of heart attack (myocardial infarction) during follow-up. Men in the lowest one-fifth ranking of aerobic fitness were at approximately twice the risk of heart attack, as compared to men in the highest one-fifth rank. Additionally, the team examined whether a high-level fitness could overcome the detrimental effects of obesity. They found that obese men who had the highest fitness level were still at an elevated risk of heart attack, as compared to the leanest men (body-mass index [BMI] under 18.5) at the lowest level of fitness. The study authors warn of "a significant graded association between aerobic fitness in late adolescence and [myocardial infarction] later in life in men."
Hogstrom G, Nordstrom A, Nordstrom P. “High aerobic fitness in late adolescence is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction later in life: a nationwide cohort study in men.” Eur Heart J. 2014 Jan 7.
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