Habitual exercise influences carotid artery strain and strain rate, but not cognitive function in healthy middle-aged females

Amy K. Campbell, Alexander J. Beaumont, Lawrence Hayes, Peter Herbert, David Gardner, Louise Ritchie, Nicholas Sculthorpe*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose Aging females are at risk of declining vascular and cognitive function. Exercise can augment both factors independently; however, the influence of exercise on their interdependence is less clearly understood. Ultrasound speckle tracking is a sensitive novel measure of arterial aging but has not previously been used in middle-aged females. We aimed to elucidate the potential interactions between vascular and cognitive variables in active aging females.
Methods Twelve active (56 ± 5 years; V˙O2peak : 34.5 ± 6.1 ml.kg.min−1) and 13 inactive (57 ± 4 years; 22.8 ± 2.6 ml.kg.min−1) healthy middle-aged females were included. Ultrasound speckle tracking assessed short-axis common carotid artery (CCA) compliance via peak circumferential strain (PCS) and strain rate (PSR) at rest, during, and after 3-min isometric handgrip exercise. Flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery was assessed using ultrasound. Cognitive function was measured using Verbal Fluency, Trail Making, Stroop, and Digit Span tests.
Results PCS (P = 0.003) and PSR (P = 0.004), were higher in the active cohort. FMD was similar between groups (P > 0.05). Minimal differences in cognitive function existed between groups, although the inactive group performed better in one test of animal Verbal Fluency (P < 0.01). No associations were observed between PCS, PSR, or FMD with cognitive function (all P > 0.05).
Conclusion This is the first study to assess PCS and PSR in middle-aged females and demonstrates that active middle-aged females exhibit a superior carotid artery profile compared to their inactive counterparts. However, PCS and PSR of the carotid artery may not be linked with cognitive function in middle-aged females.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1051-1066
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2023


  • ageing
  • exercise
  • carotid function
  • speckle tracking
  • flow-mediated dilation
  • cognitive function


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