Marnie K. McLean, Abigail Brunson, Anna Thamasett, Jasmin Parker-Brown, Abbi Lane. University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC.

BACKGROUND: The cardiac adaptions to years of intense exercise, termed ‘athlete’s heart’, have been thoroughly studied in males. Arterial changes may precede cardiac adaptations. Research is limited regarding ‘athlete’s arteries’, especially in female populations. PURPOSE: To assess differences in resting central hemodynamics between highly trained and elite athletes, henceforth “athletes”, and sedentary or recreationally active controls. METHODS: Fifteen women (n=15; mean age=23.9 years; mean BMI=22.8kg/m2; 27% athletes) were included. Participants were excluded if they were smokers, had diabetes, or took any cardiovascular medications. Participants were classified as either Sedentary/Recreationally Active or Athletes using self-report of training and competition status. Participants completed a single study visit where brachial blood pressure was measured using an oscillometric cuff and applanation tonometry was performed. Wave reflection (augmentation index; AIx) and central arterial stiffness (central pulse wave velocity; cPWV) were assessed. Wilcoxon rank-sum tests or t-tests were used to test for differences in medians or means between groups. RESULTS: Body mass index (BMI) was similar between the athlete and control group (21.94±1.0 vs 23.05±1.6 kg/m2). The athletes performed strenuous exercise 4.5 times per week on average, compared to the control group who performed strenuous exercise on average 3.3 times per week (4.5±0.9 vs 3.27±0.6). There were no differences in brachial systolic or diastolic blood pressure between groups (111.5±6.1 vs 115.7±4.0 mmHg; 67.8±3.8 vs 67.4±2.8 mmHg, all p>0.74 in athletes versus controls, respectively). cPWV was similar between groups (5.05±0.8 vs 4.13±0.2 m/s, p=0.43). Forward wave magnitude approached statistical significance, with non-significantly lower values demonstrated in the athlete group (23.75±2.1 vs 28±1.3 mmHg, p=0.10). CONCLUSIONS: Athletes and Sedentary/Recreationally Active controls exhibited similar central hemodynamics in our small pilot study, though some non-significant trends warrant further investigation in larger samples. Further research is necessary to understand vascular function in female athletes.

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