Moderate-to-vigorous exercise may help prevent atrial fibrillation

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Published: August, 2020

Regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise may help prevent atrial fibrillation (afib), according to a study in the May 2020 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Previous studies looking at the connection between afib (which causes a rapid, irregular heart rate) and exercise have produced conflicting results. But those studies relied on participants to self-report their exercise habits. For the new study, the 5,147 participants wore devices that measured their activity levels for four to seven consecutive days.

Over a median follow-up period of 3.5 years, about 8% of the participants developed afib. After adjusting for other factors that affect afib, including smoking, alcohol use, and body mass index, researchers found that people who spent more time doing moderate-to-vigorous activity were less likely to develop afib than those who exercised less often. These findings may stem from the fact that exercise lowers blood pressure (a known risk factor for afib) and also prevents the subtle, unfavorable changes in heart function that can trigger heart rhythm problems.

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