Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Kinesiology and Health Promotion

First Advisor

Dr. Bradley S. Fleenor

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark G. Abel


Aortic stiffness is an independent risk factor that has prognostic value regarding future cardiovascular disease (CVD) events such as myocardial infarction, strokes, and heart failure. Although death rates due to coronary heart disease have declined in recent years, the leading global killer remains CVD and prevalence is still high. Understanding lifestyle contributors associated with aortic stiffness would provide the public with insight into targeting key health-related behaviors.

The purpose of this observational study was to examine the association of physical activity, physical function, and dietary quality as independent factors contributing to aortic stiffness in apparently healthy middle aged men. Fifty-two men between the ages of 30 and 59 years were recruited to participate in this study, which required two visits to the Exercise Physiology Laboratory. Aortic stiffness was measured by aortic pulse wave velocity (aPWV) and was not associated with total daily step counts (r=-0.06; P=0.70). However, aortic stiffness was inversely associated with physical function, determined with the sitting-rising test score (r=-0.44; P<0.01) and inversely associated with relative muscular strength, determined with peak handgrip strength in both hands normalized to body mass (r=-0.41; P<0.01). Additionally, aortic stiffness was inversely associated with dietary quality, determined with the Healthy Eating Index score (r=0.51; P<0.01).

In conclusion, key health-related behaviors in this study that explained a large percentage of the variation in aortic stiffness were physical function and dietary quality (Adj r²=0.47; SEE=0.634). Hence, optimizing overall musculoskeletal fitness by focusing on strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility in addition to greater adherence to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines are key lifestyle contributors associated with reduced CVD risk in otherwise healthy middle aged men.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)