While your doctor likely recommends intense exercise to stay healthy, a new study from Simon Fraser University suggests it could be fatal for some people.
A team of researchers have been studying cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal beating of the heart that can lead to sudden unexpected death in young people. It’s found in people who carry one of several genetic mutations that affect proteins responsible for electrical signalling in the heart.
In their latest findings, researchers found blood-acid levels, which increase with intense exercise, can trigger cardiac arrhythmia.
“Blood acid increases as a normal result of exercise through anaerobic metabolism,” said researcher Professor Peter Ruben.
“Anaerobic metabolism creates energy when the lungs cannot provide enough oxygen to keep up with the body’s demand for energy. A by-product of anaerobic metabolism is lactic acid. Its presence during intense exercise may contribute to respiratory acidosis, an increase in acid in the blood.”
Ruben, along with biomedical physiology and kinesiology graduate students Colin Peters and Mena Abdelsayed, previously found cardiac arrhythmia can be triggered by changes in body temperature.
While body temperature changes and blood-acid level increases can each independently trigger cardiac arrhythmia, intense exercise is what Ruben calls “the perfect storm” for people with those genetic mutations.
If you have a history of sudden cardiac death in your family, Ruben recommends getting genotyped before participating in intense exercise. He said people who carry this gene might consider getting an implantable defibrillator.
Editor’s note: This article was amended to include a link to SFU’s research announcement, which was absent from the original article.