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25-Year Physical Activity Trajectories and Development of Subclinical Coronary Artery Disease as Measured by Coronary Artery Calcium: The Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study

Published:October 16, 2017DOI:



      To evaluate 25-year physical activity (PA) trajectories from young to middle age and assess associations with the prevalence of coronary artery calcification (CAC).

      Patients and Methods

      This study includes 3175 participants in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study who self-reported PA by questionnaire at 8 follow-up examinations over 25 years (from March 1985-June 1986 through June 2010-May 2011). The presence of CAC (CAC>0) at year 25 was measured using computed tomography. Group-based trajectory modeling was used to identify PA trajectories with increasing age.


      We identified 3 distinct PA trajectories: trajectory 1, below PA guidelines (n=1813; 57.1%); trajectory 2, meeting PA guidelines (n=1094; 34.5%); and trajectory 3, 3 times PA guidelines (n=268; 8.4%). Trajectory 3 participants had higher adjusted odds of CAC>0 (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.27; 95% CI, 0.95-1.70) vs those in trajectory 1. Stratification by race showed that white participants who engaged in PA 3 times the guidelines had higher odds of developing CAC>0 (OR, 1.80; 95% CI, 1.21-2.67). Further stratification by sex showed higher odds for white males (OR, 1.86; 95% CI, 1.16-2.98), and similar but nonsignificant trends were noted for white females (OR, 1.71; 95% CI, 0.79-3.71). However, no such higher odds of CAC>0 for trajectory 3 were observed for black participants.


      White individuals who participated in 3 times the recommended PA guidelines over 25 years had higher odds of developing coronary subclinical atherosclerosis by middle age. These findings warrant further exploration, especially by race, into possible biological mechanisms for CAC risk at very high levels of PA.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      AOR (adjusted odds ratio), BMI (body mass index), CAC (coronary artery calcification), CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults), CHD (coronary heart disease), CRF (cardiorespiratory fitness), CT (computed tomography), CV (cardiovascular), CVD (cardiovascular disease), EU (exercise unit), HDL-C (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol), MET (metabolic equivalent), PA (physical activity)
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