Influences of cardiorespiratory fitness levels and other predictors on cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 899-905, 1998.
Purpose: This investigation quantifies the relation between cardiorespiratory fitness levels and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality within strata of other CVD predictors.
Methods: Participants included 25,341 male Cooper Clinic patients who underwent a maximal graded exercise test. CVD death rates were determined for low (least fit one-fifth), moderate (next two-fifths), and high (top two-fifths) cardiorespiratory fitness categories by strata of smoking habit, blood cholesterol level, resting blood pressure, and health status. There were 226 cardiovascular deaths during 211,996 man-years of follow-up.
Results: For individuals with none of the major CVD predictors (smoking, elevated resting systolic blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol), there was a strong inverse relation (P = 0.001) between fitness level and CVD mortality. An inverse relation between CVD mortality and fitness level was seen within strata of cholesterol levels and health status. No evidence of a trend (P = 0.60) for decreased mortality was seen across fitness levels for individuals with elevated systolic blood pressure; however, a strong inverse gradient (P < 0.001) was seen across fitness levels for individuals with normal systolic blood pressure. There was a tendency for association between high levels of fitness and decreased CVD mortality in smokers compared with low and moderately fit smokers (P < 0.076). There was no significant association between level of fitness and CVD mortality for individuals with multiple (two or more) predictors (P = 0.325). Approximately 20% of the 226 CVD deaths in the population studied were attributed to low fitness level.
Conclusions: Moderate and high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness seem to provide some protection from CVD mortality, even in the presence of well established CVD predictors.