Background: Physical activity and sedentary behavior are considered independent risk factors for chronic disease. However, we do not fully understand their interrelation with key health outcomes such as subclinical atherosclerosis. This study examines the combined effects of sedentary behavior and physical activity on carotid intima-media thickness (cIMT) and presence of carotid plaque in a Mexican American population on the Texas-Mexico border. Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted using retrospective data from a sample (n = 612) of participants from the Cameron County Hispanic Cohort. Carotid ultrasound was used to measure cIMT and presence of carotid plaque. Self-reported questionnaires were used to assess leisure time physical activity and sedentary behavior (TV/movie sitting and total sitting). A series of multivariable regression models were used to assess study aims. An interaction term between physical activity and sedentary behavior was included in models for each respective outcome. Models were controlled for demographic and health-related variables. Results: There were no significant associations found between physical activity, sedentary behavior and mean cIMT, or cIMT thickness ≥ 75th percentile for age and gender. However, there was a significant interaction between physical activity and TV/movie sitting with presence of carotid plaque. Participants who reported moderate levels of physical activity had significantly lower odds for presence of plaque compared to participants with no activity when TV/movie sitting time was ≤3 h per day. However, there was no significant difference in odds for presence of plaque between physical activity groups when TV/movie sitting exceeded 3 h/day. These results were consistent with models examining total sitting time. Conclusions: Our results indicate that for Mexican Americans, there is a combined effect of sedentary behavior and physical activity on presence of carotid plaque. Participating in moderate physical activity is optimal for having lower levels of carotid plaque in addition to avoiding excessive levels of TV/movie sitting (≥3 h/day) and/or total sitting (≥8.5 h/day).
- Carotid intima-media thickness
- Carotid plaque
- Physical activity
- Sedentary behavior
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health