- 1In experimental animals chronic elevations in arterial blood flow increase the lumen diameter and reduce the intima-media thickness (IMT) of the arterial segment involved. We determined whether intermittent elevations in active muscle blood flow associated with regular aerobic leg exercise induced such expansive arterial remodelling in the common femoral artery of humans.
- 2In the cross-sectional study 53 sedentary (47 ± 2 years) and 55 endurance exercise-trained (47 ± 2 years) men were studied. Common femoral artery lumen diameter (B-mode ultrasound) was 7 % greater (9.62 ± 0.12 vs. 9.03 ± 0.13 mm), and femoral IMT (0.46 ± 0.02 vs. 0.55 ± 0.02 mm) and IMT/lumen ratio were 16-21 % smaller in the endurance-trained men (all P < 0.001). Basal femoral artery blood flow (duplex ultrasound) was not different, shear stress tended to be lower (P = 0.08), and mean femoral tangential wall stress was 30 % higher in the endurance-trained men (P < 0.001).
- 3In the intervention study 22 men (51 ± 2 years) were studied before and after 3 months of regular aerobic leg exercise (primarily walking). After training, the femoral diameter increased by 9 % (8.82 ± 0.18 vs. 9.60 ± 0.20 mm), and IMT (0.65 ± 0.05 vs. 0.56 ± 0.05 mm) and the IMT/lumen ratio were ≈15-20 % smaller (all P < 0.001). Basal femoral blood flow and shear stress were not different after training, whereas the mean femoral tangential wall stress increased by 31 %. The changes in arterial structure were not related to changes in risk factors for atherosclerosis.
- 4Our results are consistent with the concept that regular aerobic leg exercise induces expansive arterial remodelling in the femoral artery of healthy men. This adaptive process is produced by even a moderate training stimulus, is not obviously dependent on corresponding improvements in risk factors for atherosclerosis, and is robust, occurring in healthy men of different ages.