Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2016

Thesis Advisor(s)

Valerie Duffy, PhD, RD; Bruce Blanchard, PhD

Honors Major

Allied Health Sciences


Cardiovascular Diseases | Medicine and Health | Preventive Medicine


Background: Inflammation is the common denominator in chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and depression. While adequate physical activity and optimal sleep quality may help maintain normal inflammation levels, evidence is somewhat conflicting. Aim: This cross-sectional observational study aimed to assess how sleep quality and high intensity physical activity associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and inflammatory biomarkers in a sample of young adults (n=106, ages 18-25 years). Methods: Laboratory-based assessments included lifestyle behaviors (sleep quality, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index; self-reported frequency/intensity of physical activity; Healthy Behavior Index derived from reported preference for diet and physical activity), CVD risk factors such as anthropometrics (body mass index (BMI), percent body fat, blood pressure), serum lipids (total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides, total cholesterol-to-HDL-cholesterol ratio), and serum inflammatory measures (C-reactive protein (CRP), cortisol, leptin, insulin). Results: Nearly 30% of the sample was overweight or obese, while nearly 35% of the sample had borderline or high blood pressure. In bivariate associations, greater frequency of physical activity was significantly associated with higher BMI, yet lower leptin and insulin. Neither high intensity physical activity nor sleep quality was significantly correlated with CRP. Greater frequency of physical activity at moderate and high intensities was associated significantly with lower triglycerides. Sleep behaviors displayed no significant association with CVD risk factors. Conclusion: This sample of young adults had CVD and inflammatory risks that could be reduced with appropriate lifestyle behavior such as adequate physical activity, but not sleep quality.