Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. It’s more common in older people, and as it happens, in people who are obese. But new research suggest that exercise can have a moderating effect on the risk of developing this problem.
“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 atNTNU’sCardiac Exercise Research Group.
Garnvik has just published his results in theEuropean Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Risk doubles for inactive obese individuals
Atrial fibrillation is the most common form of heart fibrillation, and more than 100,000 Norwegians have the disease. Primarily older people are affected, and given the ageing population, twice as many Norwegians as today may well have atrial fibrillation in a few decades.
Obesity is also a well-known risk factor for atrial fibrillation. Garnvik’s study showed that people with a BMI greater than 30 have a significantly higher risk than normal weight individuals. It turns out that the activity level of obese participants plays an important role.
“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.”