Men who are particularly athletic are more likely to develop arteriosclerosis

The mystery of sport and the heart of man

Atherosclerosis is more, not less, in middle-aged men who exercise vigorously. This riddle prompted Vincent Aengevaeren, cardiologist in training at Radboudumc in Nijmegen, to dedicate his thesis to him.

To avoid misunderstandings: exercise is healthy for the heart and blood vessels, says cardiologist Aengevaeren: “Exercise reduces the risk of a heart attack. By improving vascular function, blood pressure, blood fat composition and sugar regulation, among other things,” he says in the NRC in response to his research.

But in 2008, German researchers discovered something unusual in men over 50 who run at least five marathons every three years. Marathon runners have even more coronary artery calcifications than the general population. We know that atherosclerosis actually increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Is it healthy to move so intensively? That was the reason for Aengevaeren’s doctoral research, the results of which were published in Circulation.

sporty fifties

The cardiologist in training examined 289 men between the ages of 50 and 60. Men train 25 to 57 hours a week at an intensive to very intensive level. To give you an idea: on average you spend about four hours a week on intensive jogging. Atherosclerosis is checked with CT scans. The result: The proportion of men with atherosclerosis of the arteries rose from 52 percent to 71 percent in six years. It didn’t matter how many hours per week the men trained, but the intensity of the exercise played a role. Men who exercised the most intensely saw their atherosclerosis levels rise the most. “Normal” men who did vigorous exercise had less new atherosclerosis.

More atherosclerosis

Like the marathon runners in the 2008 German study, these intensely athletic men developed additional calcified arteries. Whether these athletes also have a higher risk of heart disease, says the cardiologist at training not yet to say. Atherosclerosis can somehow protect these guys. Sturdy vessel walls are less likely to tear. In any case, it is fodder for further research. Just like the question about athletes over 50.

  • Author: Helen Crown
  • Source: Gezondheids Net

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