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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1998 Feb;46(2):134-42.

Coronary heart disease risk factors of vigorously active sexagenarians and septuagenarians.

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Life Sciences Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.



To examine the dose-response relationship between coronary heart disease risk factors and vigorous exercise in older men.


Physician-supplied medical data were compared with running distance and performance in a national cross-sectional survey of 175 septuagenarian, 935 sexagenarians, and 8672 younger male runners.


Older runners ran significantly more slowly than younger runners. Nevertheless, men 60 years of age and older who ran further had significantly higher plasma high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol concentrations (regression slope +/- SE: 0.16 +/- 0.02 mg/dL per km/week, P < .001), and significantly lower ratios of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol (-0.009 +/- 0.002 per km/week, P < .001), plasma triglyceride concentrations (-0.309 +/- 0.107 mg/dL per km/week, P < or = .004), systolic and diastolic blood pressures (-0.066 +/- 0.028, and -0.042 +/- 0.016 mm Hg per km/week, respectively, P < or = .02), body mass indices (-0.039 +/- 0.004 kg/m2 per km/week, P < .001), and waist circumferences (-0.107 +/- 0.010 cm per km/week, P < .001). Better 10-kilometer race performance times were also associated (P < or = .001) with higher HDL-cholesterol levels and lower adiposity, blood pressure, triglycerides, and ratios of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol levels. Septuagenarians who ran faster and further also had significantly (P < or = .03) higher HDL-cholesterol, lower ratios of total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol, and slimmer waists. Compared with those less than age sixty, older runners had significantly greater calculated reductions in waist (P = .039) and chest circumferences (P = .009) but significantly less reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (P = .020) per kilometer run per week.


Age does not limit the potential for vigorous activity to increase HDL-cholesterol or to reduce blood pressure, adiposity, or triglycerides, but it may attenuate improvements in LDL-cholesterol. Sexagenarians and septuagenarians are expected to have reduced heart disease risk in proportion to their vigorous activity.

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