Cardio and Afib
"Afib and Fitness - I Just KNEW it..."
Now it looks like even modest improvements in cardio fitness reduces your risk for atrial fibrillation.
If you already have atrial fibrillation and get in better shape and lost some weight you
are twice as likely to be Afib symptom-free.
And the real kicker is it doesn't take a marathon style program to get "ripped". it seems just 30 minutes of
walking and some basic calisthenics should do the trick.
You already know a healthy diet, stopping smoking and regular exercise can reduce your risk for heart
problems. Now us Afibbers have no excuse - just Get Up and Get Out and BAMM a nearly 80% less chance of your Atrial
Fibrillation continuing or "coming back."
“One of the questions we have now with heart disease is whether it’s reversible with lifestyle changes,” says
cardiologist Jared Bunch, MD, an Everyday Health columnist and director of heart rhythm research at Intermountain
Medical Center Heart Institute in Murray, Utah.
For those with an irregular heartbeat, also called atrial fibrillation, the answer appears to be yes. A
September 2015 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that when overweight people with
atrial fibrillation improved their fitness levels, more than 80 percent of them were symptom free after 4 years —
regardless of whether they lost weight.
“What’s really striking about this study is the fact that getting even slightly more
fit had a really huge impact on whether or not someone would be free of atrial fibrillation
and not require drugs or procedures to treat their Afib, whether or not
they lost weight,” says Sarah Samaan, MD, a cardiologist at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas who was not
affiliated with the study.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, affecting about 2.7
million in the United States.
Atrial fibrillation increases a person’s risk of stroke, can sap their energy, and may require medication
with significant side effects, Dr. Samaan points out. “If we can prevent or even improve it, we can have a great
impact on quality of life, overall health, and the cost of health care,” she says.
Why Fitness Matters for Your Heart
The researchers began with 825 atrial fibrillation patients who were overweight or obese. The study excluded
those with a range of health conditions, such as a heart attack or heart surgery within the past year, or various
chronic illnesses. They then tracked the remaining 308 patients for four years and measured cardiorespiratory
fitness levels and atrial fibrillation symptoms.
“Cardiovascular fitness is beyond the outward appearance of the body,” explains Dr. Bunch, who was not
involved in the research. “It’s a measurement of the health of your heart as well as your whole body. It’s your
muscle tone, your lung condition and volume, your heart, and your stores of energy that allow you to participate in
activities and athletics.”
The patients in the study all had the opportunity to join an individualized exercise program that combined
aerobic activity and strength training. After four years, researchers divided the participants into low, adequate,
and high categories based on their fitness levels. Once they examined the data, the researchers found that 76
percent of the participants in the adequate fitness group and 84 percent of those in the high fitness group were
atrial fibrillation symptom-free. Even 17 percent of the participants in the low fitness group
no longer had atrial fibrillation symptoms.
“Regular exercise has been shown to improve [body] function, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, vascular
function and inflammation,” explains study lead author, Prashanthan Sanders, MBBS, PhD, director of the Centre for
Heart Rhythm Disorders at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “In this
study, we observed beneficial effects of cardiorespiratory fitness gains on blood pressure, diabetic control, lipid
profile, and inflammation, all of which may have contributed to atrial fibrillation burden.”