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Strenuous Exercise Linked to Atrial Fibrillation

Last Updated: June 04, 2009.

Regular strenuous exercise increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, according to a study published in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

THURSDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Regular strenuous exercise increases the risk of developing atrial fibrillation, according to a study published in the June 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Anthony Aizer, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues assembled data on 16,921 apparently healthy men who took part in the Physicians' Health Study. In 12 years of follow-up, 1,661 men in the cohort developed atrial fibrillation. The researchers used logistic regression to assess the association between vigorous exercise and risk of developing atrial fibrillation.

The researchers found that the relative risk of atrial fibrillation increased with the frequency of vigorous exercise: zero days/week, relative risk, 1.0 (referent); one day/week, relative risk, 0.90; one to two days/week, relative risk, 1.09; three to four days/week, relative risk, 1.04; five to seven days/week, relative risk, 1.20. In subgroup analysis, the risk was found to increase further in men less than 50 years old (relative risks, 1.0, 0.94, 1.20, 1.05, and 1.74, respectively) and in joggers (relative risks, 1.0, 0.91, 1.03, 1.30, and 1.53, respectively).

"In conclusion, frequency of vigorous exercise was associated with an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation in young men and joggers. This risk decreased as the population aged and was offset by known beneficial effects of vigorous exercise on other atrial fibrillation risk factors," the authors write.

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