Regular exercise and physical fitness are factors that are well known to promote cardiovascular health. At the 2016 American Heart Association conference, researchers from the Mayo Clinic presented findings on how they relate to the development of atrial fibrillation and flutter.
Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia where the heart beats irregularly and too quickly as its electrical signals are disrupted. Atrial flutter is a similar condition in which these signals are coordinated but happen too fast. The study looked at around 3,000 patients who completed two treadmill exercise tests from 1993 to 2010 to evaluate their physical fitness. The researchers followed these patients’ medical histories to see which of them would later develop atrial fibrillation or flutter.
They found a correlation between better fitness during the initial test and a smaller risk of acquiring these conditions. Ten per cent better fitness at baseline was found to decrease risk by 16%. By comparing the results between the two treadmill tests, they also found that improving aerobic health later in life significantly reduced this risk as well. The study concluded that physical fitness is an accurate way of predicting the future development of atrial fibrillation and flutter, and working to improve one’s fitness is an effective method of prevention.