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Exercise and vascular ageing: a cross-sectional and randomized controlled trial

Session Physical activity, exercise, and sports

Speaker Lukas Streese

Event : ESC Congress 2019

  • Topic : preventive cardiology
  • Sub-topic : Prevention: Exercise
  • Session type : Rapid Fire Abstracts

Authors : L Streese (Basel,CH), A Deiseroth (Basel,CH), H Hanssen (Basel,CH)

L Streese1 , A Deiseroth1 , H Hanssen1 , 1University of Basel, Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Basel - Basel - Switzerland ,



Vascular ageing can be quantified at subclinical stages by use of sensitive vascular biomarkers of the macro- and microcirculation. Detection of vascular impairments enables initiation of timely treatment strategies to counteract development of CV disease and improve CV outcome.


To (a) compare large artery stiffness and retinal microvascular diameters in healthy life-long active and healthy sedentary older adults with CV risk patients, and (b) to assess the effects of short-term high-intensity exercise training on vascular health in these patients.


Seven hundred and eighty-three participants were screened for their CV risk and physical activity profile. We included 38 healthy active (HA, mean age 60±7 years) and 36 healthy sedentary (HS, mean age 60±7 years) as well as 84 sedentary patients with =2 CV risk factors (SR, mean age 59±6 years) in the cross-sectional approach. SR were randomized to a 12-week high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or physical activity recommendations after the baseline assessment. Carotid-femoral PWV (cfPWV) was measured as a marker of large artery stiffness and the central retinal arteriolar (CRAE) and venular (CRVE) diameters as well as the retinal arteriolar-to-venular diameter ratio (AVR) were measured as a marker of the microcirculation. Standard procedures of anthropometric measurements were implemented.


Anthropometric parameters differed between the groups according to the inclusion criteria. cfPWV was highest in SR (8.2±1.4m/s) compared to HS (7.5±1.6m/s) and HA (7.0±1.1 m/s). HA had a lower cfPWV compared to HS (p<0.05) and SR (p<0.001). HA had wider CRAE (179±14µm) and narrower CRVE (204±17µm) compared to HS (CRAE: 172±11 µm; CRVE: 209±11 µm) resulting in a higher AVR in HA (0.88±0.05) compared to HS (0.83± 0.04, p<0.001). By contrast, SR showed narrower CRAE (171±14 µm) and wider CRVE (218±16µm, p<0.05) compared to HS resulting in a lower AVR (0.79±0.05, p<0.001) compared to HS and HA. HIIT in SR improved most classic CV risk factors. Additionally, CRAE increased (pre: 175 ±14µm vs post: 181 ±13µm, p=0.001) and CRVE decreased (pre: 222 ±14µm vs post: 220 ±14µm, p=0.007) in the HIIT group without changes in the cfPWV. PWV was significantly but moderately associated with AVR (r=-0.2, p=0.01).


Life-long physical activity and fitness were associated with lower arterial stiffness and favourable retinal vessel diameters in healthy individuals. CV patients had higher arterial stiffness and lower AVR. Short-term HIIT improved retinal microvascular phenotype without changes in large artery stiffness. Retinal vessel diameters are sensitive diagnostic tool for CV risk stratification and subclinical vascular disease monitoring in CV patients. Short-term HIIT may postpone development of small vessel disease in older patients.

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