BOSTON – New research reports significant differences between men and women with atrial fibrillation (AF) and the safety of intense physical activity. The study found that both moderate and vigorous levels of exercise are safe for women living with AF. However, vigorous levels of exercise are associated with an increased risk of AF in men. The research, analyzing data from a large-scale or robust patient population of nearly 380,000 patients, was presented today at Heart Rhythm 2015, the Heart Rhythm Society’s 36th Annual Scientific Sessions.
AF is the most common arrhythmia and affects more than 2.7 million American adults. It is characterized by a rapid and irregular heartbeat when the top chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver (fibrillate) erratically, sometimes faster than 300 times per minute. Regular physical activity is well-known to reduce the risk of many cardiovascular diseases; however, the correlation between physical activity and the risk of AF is difficult to define.
The study involved a meta-analysis of 14 prospective observational studies including approximately 379,884 patients. Two of the 14 studies involved only female participants, two studies reported both male and female, and the remaining 10 studies included male participants. Studies were included if they evaluated trials that reported a relation between incident AF and the level of intensity of exercise.
Among men, vigorous exercise was associated with a 90 percent (1.9 times) increased risk of AF, while moderate exercise lowered the incidence of AF by 19 percent. In women, both moderate and high intensity levels of exercise were found to be beneficial. Moderate exercise reduced the risk of AF in women by 24 percent and by 15 percent when they participated in vigorous exercises.
“Sustaining a workout routine can be intimidating for patients with AF because they are concerned about how it will further affect their heart beat and potentially trigger an AF episode,” said lead author Sanghamitra Mohanty, MD, FHRS, senior researcher at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute. “Now that we know about the advantages of moderate physical activity in both men and women, we are able to provide specific tips and recommendations on how patients can exercise safely and at the same time benefit from the protective effect of exercise on AF and improve their overall quality of life.
The study reinforces that it is safe for patients with AF to exercise. However, the results specifically shed light on safe levels of exercise intensity for both male and female patients living with AF. Patients with AF should consult their doctor to determine the best exercise plan to help prevent incidence of AF and to maintain a healthy heart.
“Association of Different Intensities of Physical Activity with the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation: Is it Gender-Specific?” [Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT,Exhibit Hall]
Heart Rhythm 2015 is the most comprehensive educational program for heart rhythm professionals, featuring more than 250 educational sessions and more than 130 exhibitors showcasing innovative products and services. The Heart Rhythm Society’s Annual Scientific Sessions have become the must-attend event of the year, allowing the exchange of new vital ideas and information among colleagues from every corner of the globe.