Staying Fit May Delay Onset of High Cholesterol
Written by Editor   
Thursday, May 28, 2015 07:29 PM

Men who keep fit may find they delay normal age-related increases in blood cholesterol levels by up to 15 years, a new study suggests.

It is common for cholesterol levels to rise with age and then decrease later in life, the study authors explained in background notes. Previous studies have shown that high cholesterol levels can be a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can lower this risk, the researchers said.

"Exercise and being fit helps keep arteries clear by lowering 'bad' [LDL] cholesterol and boosting 'good' [HDL] cholesterol," explained the study author.  It also reduces other risk factors for atherosclerosis [narrowed arteries] and blood clots, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stress."  The long-term study ran from 1970 to 2006, and included just over 11,400 men, aged 20 to 90. Each took an exercise test on a treadmill to determine their baseline aerobic fitness level.

Researchers measured total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides (another type of blood fat), HDL cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol (the total cholesterol level minus the good HDL cholesterol) in study participants.

Men with lower-than-optimal aerobic fitness had a greater risk of developing high cholesterol in their early 30s, the investigators found, while men with higher levels of fitness did not see high cholesterol develop until their mid-40s.

Men with what would be considered low aerobic fitness reached abnormal HDL and non-HDL cholesterol levels around their early 20s and mid-30s, respectively, while those with higher fitness experienced normal levels for the entire duration of the study, the researchers said.

Aerobic exercise uses the large muscles of the body and brings oxygen to those muscles for use during exercise. Some examples of aerobic exercise include brisk walking, running, biking, swimming, hiking and playing team sports, such as basketball and soccer.

The amount of exercise needed can be achieved by engaging in aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.  

"This study, along with our previous studies on glucose [blood sugar] and blood pressure, provide an important message for health care providers that improving cardiorespiratory fitness may delay the onset of high cholesterol, diabetes or high blood pressure. Clinicians should consider counseling their patients to increase physical activity levels in order to improve fitness."