Nav: Home

Severely obese people can reduce risk of atrial fibrillation with exercise

August 07, 2018

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 at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) Cardiac Exercise Research Group.

Garnvik has just published his results in the European 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."

Why is exercise protective?

Garnvik emphasizes that the study can't guarantee that physical activity is actually the factor that protects against atrial fibrillation. However, the analysis takes into account several other factors that could potentially explain the link. These factors include smoking, alcohol use and previous cardiovascular disease. Garnvik also provides several possible explanations as to why exercise can counteract 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.

More than 43,000 participants

The study is based on information from 43,602 men and women who participated in the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (the HUNT Study) between 2006 and 2008. Nearly 1500 of them developed atrial fibrillation by the end of 2015.

"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.

Several well-known athletes have had episodes of atrial fibrillation, and some have suggested that exercise can increase the risk. But that's a qualified truth, Garnvik said.

"Athletes and others who've built up a lot of stamina over many years may have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. But both our study and many others show that physical activity is healthy in the amounts that are relevant for most people. This is also true when we talk about the danger of atrial fibrillation," he says.
-end-
Reference: Physical activity modifies the risk of atrial fibrillation in obese individuals: The HUNT3 study. Lars E Garnvik, Vegard Malmo, Imre Janszky et al. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. https://doi.org/10.1177/2047487318784365

Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Related Heart Failure Articles:

Top Science Tip Sheet on heart failure, heart muscle cells, heart attack and atrial fibrillation results
Newly discovered pathway may have potential for treating heart failure - New research model helps predict heart muscle cells' impact on heart function after injury - New mass spectrometry approach generates libraries of glycans in human heart tissue - Understanding heart damage after heart attack and treatment may provide clues for prevention - Understanding atrial fibrillation's effects on heart cells may help find treatments - New research may lead to therapy for heart failure caused by ICI cancer medication
Machining the heart: New predictor for helping to beat chronic heart failure
Researchers from Kanazawa University have used machine learning to predict which classes of chronic heart failure patients are most likely to experience heart failure death, and which are most likely to develop an arrhythmic death or sudden cardiac death.
Heart attacks, heart failure, stroke: COVID-19's dangerous cardiovascular complications
A new guide from emergency medicine doctors details the potentially deadly cardiovascular complications COVID-19 can cause.
Autoimmunity-associated heart dilation tied to heart-failure risk in type 1 diabetes
In people with type 1 diabetes without known cardiovascular disease, the presence of autoantibodies against heart muscle proteins was associated with cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) imaging evidence of increased volume of the left ventricle (the heart's main pumping chamber), increased muscle mass, and reduced pumping function (ejection fraction), features that are associated with higher risk of failure in the general population
Transcendental Meditation prevents abnormal enlargement of the heart, reduces chronic heart failure
A randomized controlled study recently published in the Hypertension issue of Ethnicity & Disease found the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique helps prevent abnormal enlargement of the heart compared to health education (HE) controls.
Beta blocker use identified as hospitalization risk factor in 'stiff heart' heart failure
A new study links the use of beta-blockers to heart failure hospitalizations among those with the common 'stiff heart' heart failure subtype.
Type 2 diabetes may affect heart structure and increase complications and death among heart failure patients of Asian ethnicity
The combination of heart failure and Type 2 diabetes can lead to structural changes in the heart, poorer quality of life and increased risk of death, according to a multi-country study in Asia.
Preventive drug therapy may increase right-sided heart failure risk in patients who receive heart devices
Patients treated preemptively with drugs to reduce the risk of right-sided heart failure after heart device implantation may experience the opposite effect and develop heart failure and post-operative bleeding more often than patients not receiving the drugs.
How the enzyme lipoxygenase drives heart failure after heart attacks
Heart failure after a heart attack is a global epidemic leading to heart failure pathology.
Novel heart pump shows superior outcomes in advanced heart failure
Severely ill patients with advanced heart failure who received a novel heart pump -- the HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device (LVAD) -- suffered significantly fewer strokes, pump-related blood clots and bleeding episodes after two years, compared with similar patients who received an older, more established pump, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 68th Annual Scientific Session.
More Heart Failure News and Heart Failure Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Sound And Silence
Sound surrounds us, from cacophony even to silence. But depending on how we hear, the world can be a different auditory experience for each of us. This hour, TED speakers explore the science of sound. Guests on the show include NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth, writer Rebecca Knill, and sound designer Dallas Taylor.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Kittens Kick The Giggly Blue Robot All Summer
With the recent passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there's been a lot of debate about how much power the Supreme Court should really have. We think of the Supreme Court justices as all-powerful beings, issuing momentous rulings from on high. But they haven't always been so, you know, supreme. On this episode, we go all the way back to the case that, in a lot of ways, started it all.  Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.