Sports Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 9, pp 633–650

Established and Recently Identified Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors in Young People

The Influence of Physical Activity and Physical Fitness
  • Non Eleri Thomas
  • Julien S. Baker
  • Bruce Davies
Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/00007256-200333090-00001

Cite this article as:
Thomas, N.E., Baker, J.S. & Davies, B. Sports Med (2003) 33: 633. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333090-00001


Epidemiological studies have identified several risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD), many of which are present in young people.1 One such risk factor is hypertension. In adults, exercise is thought to have a positive effect on blood pressure levels; however, findings are inconclusive for young people. Despite its association with CHD, obesity is on the increase in Western society’s young population; prevention and intervention during early years is needed. An active lifestyle is considered to have a beneficial effect on body fatness. Lipoprotein profiles are directly associated with CHD status. In adults, there is some evidence that physical activity and/or fitness have a favourable effect on lipoprotein levels. Although information regarding the younger population is more ambiguous, it tends to concur with these findings. High levels of lipoprotein(a), are considered an independent risk factor for CHD. Relatively little has been written on young people, although some studies have postulated a favourable relationship with physical activity.

An inverse relationship between aerobic fitness and CHD has been confirmed in adults; an association is not as easily verified for young people. Physical activity is similarly deemed to have a beneficial effect on health status. A high-fat diet has been linked to CHD in adults, and evidence to date reports similar findings for young people. Smoking increases the risk of CHD and even moderate smoking during youth could have damaging long-term consequences. There is some evidence that smoking is related to physical activity and fitness levels in young people.

In adults, high levels of homocyst(e)ine have been associated with CHD. As yet, little has been written on the relationship between physical activity or physical fitness and homocysteine status in young people. High levels of plasma fibrinogen have been linked to CHD. Several studies have explored the relationship between plasma fibrinogen and physical activity and/or fitness in adults, but findings are inconclusive; for young people, the ambiguity is even greater. C-reactive protein is a molecular marker for CHD but, to date, little attention has been given to this aspect, especially amongst young people. The link between high levels of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and CHD has been confirmed, although the essence of this relationship is not established. There is a paucity of data on the younger population and the relevance of collating such information is questionable.

For the younger population, most research is limited to the established CHD risk factors and further investigations of recently identified CHD risk factors are needed.

Copyright information

© Adis Data Information BV 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Non Eleri Thomas
    • 1
  • Julien S. Baker
    • 2
  • Bruce Davies
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Sport, Physical Education and RecreationUniversity of Wales Institute CardiffCyncoedWales
  2. 2.School of Applied SciencesUniversity of GlamorganPontypriddWales