The American College of Cardiology (ACC) held its annual Scientific Sessions in Washington, DC, from March 28 – 31, 2014. Sports cardiology and physical activity were among the many, many topics covered at the meeting, with some interesting research findings that will be of interest to TodaysFitnessTrainer.com readers.
Marathon Training and Cardiac Risk Factors
In one study on physical activity, researchers determined that marathon training was associated with an improvement in cardiovascular risk factors among middle-aged (ages 35 to 65 years old), male recreational runners who had trained to run the Boston Marathon. These male runners had trained for 18 weeks in preparation for the 2013 marathon, and their training was found to result in significant improvements in their cardiovascular risk. For example, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) fell by five percent overall; triglycerides were reduced by 15 percent; and total cholesterol came down by four percent. Peak oxygen consumption also increased among these men, by four percent.
Calculating Maximum Heart Rate – Gender Differences
In another study that looked at physical activity, researchers analyzed 25,000 stress tests and found, importantly, that the standard formula currently used to determine maximum heart rate with exercise does not account for significant gender differences. The current formula of “220 – age” to calculate maximum heart rate that should not be exceeded during exercise is the one that has been in use for decades, but according to this study (by the Mayo Clinic) as well as other prior studies, we need an updated formula that takes into account the fact that women have a more gradual decline in their age-related maximum heart rate than men do. These researchers put forth the following formulas to account for this:
- For women ages 40 – 89, maximum heart rate = 200 – 0.67(age)
- For men, maximum heart rate = 216 – 0.93(age)
Thus, these researchers are proposing that the formula used for women start at a lower baseline number (200 instead of 220), and take into account 67% of age as the variable.
Children, Screen Time, and Cardiovascular Risk Factors
In children, a very interesting study looked at TV time and screen habits and their correlation with cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers analyzed TV watching and screen habits in 1,003 children, and found that those who watched TV for two to six hours per day were more likely to have elevated risk factors (higher BMI, higher blood pressure, and slower recovery heart rate) than those who spent the same amount of time on the computer or playing video games. The researchers noted that their results may suggest that time spent watching TV is associated with poor food choices. So maybe kids who are doing their homework on the computer or are engrossed in their favorite video game have less time (or desire) to eat unhealthy snacks than those who are TV couch potatoes!
Yasmine S. Ali, MD, MSCI, FACC, FACP, is President of Nashville Preventive Cardiology, PLLC, in Nashville, TN. She is board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, as well as in clinical lipidology and nuclear cardiology. She is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and of the American College of Physicians. She graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in 2001, and has made it her career’s work to follow her passion for preventing cardiovascular disease and improving heart health for as many people as possible. In addition, Dr. Ali is also the Physician Expert for the Obesity site for www.obesity.about.com. Each month she will be contributing an educational piece on preventing cardiovascular disease. To learn more about Dr. Ali, visit www.preventivecardio.com.