Stay active to prevent stroke and heart rhythm disorders.

Physical activity is associated with a lower risk of atrial fibrillation and stroke, according to a study involving more than 15,000 adults. At the ESC Congress in 2023, the research is presented.

The most prevalent heart rhythm disease, atrial fibrillation, affects more than 40 million people globally. Atrial fibrillation is thought to affect one in three Europeans at some point in their lives. Patients with the condition have a five-fold higher risk of stroke compared to their contemporaries. This study investigated the relationship between fitness and the risk of atrial fibrillation.

15,450 people lacking atrial fibrillation who received authorization for a treadmill test between 2003 and 2012 were included in the study. There were 59% men and an average age of 55. The Bruce protocol, which involves asking participants to walk faster and at a steeper incline over the course of several three-minute phases, was used to gauge fitness. The individuals’ rate of energy expenditure, measured in metabolic equivalents (METs), was used to determine fitness.

Atrial fibrillation with new start, stroke, myocardial infarction, and death were monitored in the participants. After adjusting for variables that could affect the relationships, such as age, sex, cholesterol level, kidney function, the researchers examined the relationships between fitness and atrial fibrillation, stroke, and major cardiovascular events (MACE; a composite of stroke, myocardial infarction, and death).

515 patients (3.3%), throughout the course of a median of 137 months, experienced atrial fibrillation. An 8% lower risk of atrial fibrillation, a 12% lower risk of stroke, and a 14% lower risk of MACE were linked to every one MET increase on the treadmill test.

According to the METs attained during the treadmill test, the participants were categorized into three fitness levels: low (less than 8.57 METs), medium (8.57 to 10.72 METs), and high (more than 10.72 METs). In the low, medium, and high fitness groups, the chances of avoiding atrial fibrillation after a five-year period were 97.1%, 98.4%, and 98.4%, respectively.

The National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University’s Dr. Shih-Hsien Sung, the study’s author, said: “This was an extensive investigation with a specific measurement of fitness and more than 11 years of follow-up. The results suggest that exercising regularly may help avoid stroke and atrial fibrillation.

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