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Exercise and the prevention of atherosclerosis[edit]

Background/ Explanation of the issue[edit]

Atherosclerosis is a disease characterised by hardening of the arteries in the body. This process often occurs as a result of ageing or lifestyle because over time the arteries become harder from the formation of plaques. [1] Atherosclerosis is a condition that is associated with metabolic syndrome [2] Atherosclerosis has an inflammatory effect and is also associated with thickening of the arterial wall surface due to plaque deposits [3] Oxidative processes are important along with inflammation in the lead up to rupturing of plaque and thrombosis which can occur in this disease [4] Oxidised low-density lipoprotein is involved in the initiation of plaque build up. Oxidised LDL assists T cells so they can adhere to vessel endothelium, in this way it contributes to development of atherosclerosis [3] Platelets, leukocytes, endothelial cells, and the reactions between them are the characteristic elements of atherosclerosis [5] T lymphocytes are the cells that have a major involvement in the development of atherosclerosis [3] .T regulatory cells have the ability to inhibit atherosclerosis by controlling production of T cells [3]. Cardiovascular disease frequently occurs as a result of atherosclerosis [4]. It has been found that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease is lowered if the individual’s diet has a high fruit and vegetable content. However, vitamin supplements do not seem to have an effect in minimising cardiovascular disease [6] Risk of developing atherosclerosis is measured by carotid artery intimal medial thickness, and it’s progression can be linked with cardiovascular issues [6]

Importance of Exercise[edit]

Studies have shown that physical activity can improve endothelial function when atherosclerosis is present. Exercise is also beneficial for individuals with risk factors for coronary artery disease [7] Regular exercise has been found to be helpful in managing and preventing atherosclerosis and is a recommendation for individuals affected by coronary artery disease [8]

Benefits of resistance training on the prevention of atherosclerosis[edit]

Benefits of resistance training on the prevention of atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is associated with an individual’s lifestyle and therefore this can be modified to help in the prevention of the disease. For example it has been linked with:

  • High serum total cholesterol and triglycerides levels [9]
  • Elevations in body-mass index (BMI) [9]
  • Elevation in systolic blood pressure [9]
  • General physical inactivity [10]

There are several studies which have shown the benefit of resistance exercise on these factors. Progressive resistance training has been associated with decreases in:

  • Total cholesterol [11]
  • non-high density lipoprotein cholesterol [11]
  • low density lipoprotein cholesterol [11]
  • triglycerides in adults [11]
  • both systolic and diastolic blood pressure [12]

Recommendations for resistance training[edit]

A doctor should be consulted before the onset of any vigorous exercise for individuals with any cardiovascular problems [13] Exercise should be stopped and medical advice immediately sought if the individual experiences, recurring chest pain, unusual shortness of breath, dizziness or heart rhythm abnormalities [14] The resistance training recommendations for individuals with cardiovascular disease include :

  • Single set. [14]
  • Performed a minimum 2-3 times a week. [14]
  • 8-10 different exercises using the major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, back, hips and legs). [14]
  • 10-15 reps at a moderate level of fatigue. [14]
  • If a high risk individual, avoid any extremely strenuous exercises. [14]

Further Readings[edit]

[1] Exercise for persons with cardiovascular disease

[2] Hardening of the arteries


  1. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. 2012. Hardening of the arteries [Online]. Available: [Accessed 22 October 2012].
  2. VAIDYA, D., SZKLO, M., CUSHMAN, M., HOLVOET, P., POLAK, J., BAHRAMI, H., JENNY, N. S. & OUYANG, P. 2011. Association of endothelial and oxidative stress with metabolic syndrome and subclinical atherosclerosis: multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 65, 818-825.
  3. a b c d MOTTAGHI, A., SALEHI, E., SEZAVAR, H., KESHAVARZ, S. A., ESHRAGHIAN, M. R., REZAEI, N., REJALI, L. & SABOOR-YARAGHI, A.-A. 2012. The in vitro Effect of Oxidized LDL and PHA on Proliferation and Gene Expression of Regulatory T Cells in Patients with Atherosclerosis. Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 11, 217-223.
  4. a b .CYMBRON, T., RAPOSO, M., KAZACHKOVA, N., BETTENCOURT, C., SILVA, F., SANTOS, C., DAHMANI, Y., LOURENÇO, P., FERIN, R., PAVÃO, M. L. & LIMA, M. 2011. Cross-sectional study of risk factors for atherosclerosis in the Azorean population. Annals of Human Biology, 38, 354-359.
  5. .HUANG, C.-C., LIU, K., POPE, R. M., DU, P., LIN, S., RAJAMANNAN, N. M., HUANG, Q.-Q., JAFARI, N., BURKE, G. L., POST, W., WATSON, K. E., JOHNSON, C., DAVIGLUS, M. L. & LLOYD-JONES, D. M. 2011. Activated TLR signaling in atherosclerosis among women with lower Framingham risk score: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis. PLoS ONE, 6, e21067-e21067.
  6. a b .AGARWAL, M., MEHTA, P. K., DWYER, J. H., DWYER, K. M., SHIRCORE, A. M., NORDSTROM, C. K., SUN, P., PAUL-LABRADOR, M., YANG, Y. & MERZ, C. N. B. 2012. Differing Relations to Early Atherosclerosis between Vitamin C from Supplements vs. Food in the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis Study: A Prospective Cohort Study. The Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal, 6, 113-121.
  7. ROITMAN, J. L. & LAFONTAINE, T. 2006. Special populations. Exercise, atherosclerosis, and the endothelium: where the action is (part II). Strength & Conditioning Journal (Allen Press), 28, 75-77.
  8. . REID, R. D., TULLOCH, H., KOCOUREK, J., MORRIN, L. I., BEATON, L. J., PAPADAKIS, S., BLANCHARD, C. M., RILEY, D. L. & PIPE, A. L. 2007. Who will be active? Predicting exercise stage transitions after hospitalization for coronary artery diseaseThis paper is one of a selection of papers published in this Special Issue, entitled Young Investigators' Forum. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 85, 17-23.
  9. a b c BERENSON, G. S., SRINIVASAN, S. R., BAO, W., NEWMAN, W. P., TRACY, R. E. & WATTIGNEY, W. A. 1998. Association between Multiple Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Atherosclerosis in Children and Young Adults. New England Journal of Medicine, 338, 1650-1656.
  10. KADOGLOU, N. P. E., ILIADIS, F. & LIAPIS, C. D. 2008. Exercise and carotid atherosclerosis. European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, 35, 264-272.
  11. a b c d KELLEY, G. A. & KELLEY, K. S. 2009. Impact of progressive resistance training on lipids and lipoproteins in adults: Another look at a meta-analysis using prediction intervals. Preventive Medicine, 49, 473-475.
  12. FAGARD, R. H. 2006. Exercise is good for your blood pressure: effects of endurance training and resistance training. Clinical & Experimental Pharmacology & Physiology, 33, 853-856.
  13. . THOMPSON, P. D., BUCHNER, D., PIÑA, I. L., BALADY, G. J., WILLIAMS, M. A., MARCUS, B. H., BERRA, K., BLAIR, S. N., COSTA, F., FRANKLIN, B., FLETCHER, G. F., GORDON, N. F., PATE, R. R., RODRIGUEZ, B. L., YANCEY, A. K. & WENGER, N. K. 2003. Exercise and physical activity in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 107, 3109-3116.
  14. a b c d e f FRANKLIN, A. B., BALADY, J. G., BERRA, K., GORDON, F. N. & POLLOCK, L. M. 2012. Exercise for persons with cardiovascular disease [Online]. Available: [Accessed 4 October 2012].