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:

New hope for treating heart failure
Heart failure patients who are getting by on existing drug therapies can look forward to a far more effective medicine in the next five years or so, thanks to University of Alberta researchers.
Activated T-cells drive post-heart attack heart failure
Chronic inflammation after a heart attack can promote heart failure and death.
ICU care for COPD, heart failure and heart attack may not be better
Does a stay in the intensive care unit give patients a better chance of surviving a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure flare-up or even a heart attack, compared with care in another type of hospital unit?
Tissue engineering advance reduces heart failure in model of heart attack
Researchers have grown heart tissue by seeding a mix of human cells onto a 1-micron-resolution scaffold made with a 3-D printer.
Smoking may lead to heart failure by thickening the heart wall
Smokers without obvious signs of heart disease were more likely than nonsmokers and former smokers to have thickened heart walls and reduced heart pumping ability.
After the heart attack: Injectable gels could prevent future heart failure (video)
During a heart attack, clots or narrowed arteries block blood flow, harming or killing cells in the heart.
Heart failure after first heart attack may increase cancer risk
People who develop heart failure after their first heart attack have a greater risk of developing cancer when compared to first-time heart attack survivors without heart failure, according to a study today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Scientists use 'virtual heart' to model heart failure
A team of researchers have created a detailed computational model of the electrophysiology of congestive heart failure, a leading cause of death.
Increase in biomarker linked with increased risk of heart disease, heart failure, death
In a study published online by JAMA Cardiology, Elizabeth Selvin, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, and colleagues examined the association of six-year change in high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T with incident coronary heart disease, heart failure and all-cause mortality.
1 in 4 patients develop heart failure within 4 years of first heart attack
One in four patients develop heart failure within four years of a first heart attack, according to a study in nearly 25,000 patients presented today at Heart Failure 2016 and the 3rd World Congress on Acute Heart Failure by Dr.

Related Heart Failure Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#529 Do You Really Want to Find Out Who's Your Daddy?
At least some of you by now have probably spit into a tube and mailed it off to find out who your closest relatives are, where you might be from, and what terrible diseases might await you. But what exactly did you find out? And what did you give away? In this live panel at Awesome Con we bring in science writer Tina Saey to talk about all her DNA testing, and bioethicist Debra Mathews, to determine whether Tina should have done it at all. Related links: What FamilyTreeDNA sharing genetic data with police means for you Crime solvers embraced...