A new study used fluid dynamics simulations to investigate the effect of exercise at different ages on plaque formation in arteries. The study was published in the “Physics of Fluids Journal”.
It has been known for years that exercise and age affect plaque formation through a process known as atherosclerosis. What has not been fully understood, however, is how the geometric characteristics of the arteries affect plaque formation, although a dilated region in the internal carotid branch, the sinus, appears to be a vulnerable site. “It is commonly believed that disturbed flow induces atherosclerosis,” said author Xiaolei Yang.
To investigate this, the authors considered two arterial geometries, one with a bulging external artery and one without, and modeled the effect of exercise and age on blood flow through the two arteries. models. Two major arteries carrying blood to the head and neck, called the carotid arteries, branch off from a single large artery near the thyroid gland. One branch, the internal carotid artery, or ICA, carries blood inside the skull to the brain, while the external carotid artery stays outside the skull and brings blood to the neck, face, and chest. scalp.
Just above the bifurcation, the ICA bulges outward, forming a region known as the sinus that is sensitive to changes in blood pressure and helps regulate blood flow and heart rate. “Our work investigated patterns of disturbed blood flow in two different model carotids, one with geometric high-risk factors and one without,” said co-author Xinyi He.
She explained that high-risk factors include high thrust and low proximal curvature in the sinus. Flare is defined as the ratio of the maximum cross-section in the bulb of the sinus to its minimum value, while the proximal curvature measures how much the artery bends above the point of bifurcation. To model exercise, the authors digitized blood flow measurements from individuals in three different age groups: 32-34, 54-55, and 62-63. These digitized flows were used as input data in their calculation model.
“Overall, the effects of exercise are different for different people. In particular, we show that exercise decreases the volume of reverse flow for the age group 62-63 years with low-risk carotid artery, which is probably related to the decrease in systolic time interval,” says Yang. He said this suggests that assessing the effect of exercise on atherosclerosis requires consideration of patient-specific geometries and ages.
“For the current findings to become useful, the analysis must be coupled with physiological and chemical processes occurring at the cellular level,” Yang said, indicating that this would be the focus of the group’s future work.
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