New study indicates that exercise can reduce risk of atrial fibrillation in severely obese people (BMI greater than 30)

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common rhythm disorder of the heart (arrhythmia) and it has been recognised as a major global health burden. Increasing life expectancy and increase in the heart disease risk factors with age are some of the contributory factors for this burden.

The prevalence of atrial fibrillation roughly doubles with each decade of age, rising to almost 9% at 80-90 years. AF leads to ineffective contraction of the atria (upper chambers of the heart) and is associated with left atrial enlargement. This results in stagnation of blood and increased propensity for clot formation leading to a increased increase risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. But new research suggests that exercise can have a moderating effect on the risk of developing AF, especially  in obese people.

Obesity is also a well-known risk factor for atrial fibrillation.The study showed that people with a BMI greater than 30 have a significantly higher risk than normal weight individuals.

“The risk of atrial fibrillation was lower the more physically active a person was. This turned out to be especially true for people with obesity,” says Lars Elnan Garnvik, a PhD candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Cardiac Exercise Research Group.

Results of the study were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

Obesity is also a well-known risk factor for atrial fibrillation.The study showed that people with a BMI greater than 30 have a significantly higher risk than normal weight individuals.

“People who reported that they didn’t exercise at all had about double the risk of developing fibrillations, when compared to those who were physically active whose body weight was normal,” Garnvik said. “However, people who were obese but who exercised a lot limited the increase in risk to no more than approximately 50 per cent. This suggests that physical activity is good for limiting the increased risk of atrial fibrillation in obese people.”

“Physical activity and exercise reduce a lot of the known risk factors for atrial fibrillation, like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and chronic inflammation. Physical activity can also improve a person’s fitness level, and we know that people in good shape have a reduced risk of heart failure,” says the PhD candidate.

Atrial fibrillation causes 20-30% of all strokes and increases the risk of dying prematurely. “One strength of our study is that doctors confirmed the participants’ atrial fibrillation diagnosis, and unlike many previous studies, we didn’t solely rely on the participants themselves telling us they had the condition,” says Garnvik.

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here