JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY

Associations of Fitness, Physical Activity, Strength, and Genetic Risk With Cardiovascular Disease: Longitudinal Analyses in the UK Biobank Study

Emmi Tikkanen, Stefan Gustafsson, Erik Ingelsson
Circulation 2018 June 12, 137 (24): 2583-2591
29632216

BACKGROUND: Observational studies have shown inverse associations among fitness, physical activity, and cardiovascular disease. However, little is known about these associations in individuals with elevated genetic susceptibility for these diseases.

METHODS: We estimated associations of grip strength, objective and subjective physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness with cardiovascular events and all-cause death in a large cohort of 502 635 individuals from the UK Biobank (median follow-up, 6.1 years; interquartile range, 5.4-6.8 years). Then we further examined these associations in individuals with different genetic burden by stratifying individuals based on their genetic risk scores for coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation. We compared disease risk among individuals in different tertiles of fitness, physical activity, and genetic risk using lowest tertiles as reference.

RESULTS: Grip strength, physical activity, and cardiorespiratory fitness showed inverse associations with incident cardiovascular events (coronary heart disease: hazard ratio [HR], 0.79; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.77-0.81; HR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.93-0.97; and HR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.63-0.74, per SD change, respectively; atrial fibrillation: HR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.73-0.76; HR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.91-0.95; and HR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.56-0.65, per SD change, respectively). Higher grip strength and cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with lower risk of incident coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation in each genetic risk score group ( P trend <0.001 in each genetic risk category). In particular, high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with 49% lower risk for coronary heart disease (HR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.38-0.69) and 60% lower risk for atrial fibrillation (HR, 0.40; 95%, CI 0.30-0.55) among individuals at high genetic risk for these diseases.

CONCLUSIONS: Fitness and physical activity demonstrated inverse associations with incident cardiovascular disease in the general population, as well as in individuals with elevated genetic risk for these diseases.

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