A new study is warning that millions of young Americans are now at risk of suffering a stroke because they might be “exercising too much.”
Researchers found people with carotid artery stenosis, which is estimated to affect five percent of the country, are at risk of suffering sudden clots in the brain after simple activities like a brisk walk or swimming.
The study, published in the scientific journal Physics of Fluid, concluded that an elevated heart rate can induce a stroke in those with blocked carotid arteries.
It suggests that as many as 16.5 million Americans may want to refrain from going all-out while they work out.
The Mail Online reports: Carotid artery stenosis is a condition where plaques build up in the carotid arteries, narrowing the space that blood travels through.
These arteries run through the neck and are responsible for getting blood, containing vital nutrients and oxygen, to the brain and parts of the face.
Sudden rises in blood pressure, such as those during exercises, can cause plaques to be dislodged – which could trigger a stroke.
The number of Americans with carotid artery stenosis has surged over the last two decades, figures suggest.
In the early 2000s, it was estimated that about two million Americans had the condition. But now the Cleveland Clinic says about five percent of all adults have the condition — or 16.5 million people.
Being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for the condition, scientists say. A sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, or smoking also raises someone’s risk.
In the study, published this week in the journal Physics of Fluids, scientists built a computer simulation of one of the carotid arteries.
They simulated three carotid arteries: A healthy one, one with a ‘mild’ 30 percent blockage, and one with a ‘severe’ 50 percent blockage.
Each was then put through an exercise-induced heart rate of 140 beats per minute (bpm), which can be achieved with brisk walking, cycling, and Zumba among other activities for obese people.
They were also simulated under conditions of a resting heart rate of 67 and a moderate exercise rate of 100 bpm.
Scientists found that the healthy and mildly blocked carotid arteries had their health boosted by exercise.
But for those with a severe blockage, the results were described as ‘concerning’.
The model showed stress on the area which raised the risk of the stenosis rupturing and part of the plaque being released into the bloodstream.
This could then travel into the brain and become lodged in a blood vessel inside the organ, blocking the oxygen supply and causing a stroke.
Dr. Somnath Roy, a mechanical engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur outside Kolkata and lead author in the study, said: ‘Intense exercise shows adverse effects on patients with moderate or higher stenosis levels.
‘It substantially increases the shear stress at the stenosis zone, which may cause the stenosis to rupture.
‘This ruptured plaque may then flow to the brain and its blood supply, causing ischemic stroke.’
The scientists added in the paper: ‘While stressful exercises may be beneficial for improving the cardiac performance of healthy individuals, the same may bring in extremely adverse consequences at elevated heart rates on account of extensive physical activities for patients having extensive arterial blockages.’