Thursday, August 7, 2008

Light Exercise Prevents Atrial Fibrillation in Elderly

“Light to moderate exercise -- just walking a few blocks or even dancing -- can help prevent the abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation in those most vulnerable to it -- older people, a new study finds. Atrial fibrillation, in which the two upper chambers of the heart tend to twitch rather than beat steadily, is the most common heart rhythm abnormality. It is especially common after age 65. The danger is that blood can pool, causing clots that move to the heart or brain. There have been reports of an increased incidence of the abnormality in younger people who exercise vigorously. ‘Prior studies have looked at atrial fibrillation in young and middle-aged and generally healthy people,’ said study lead author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. ‘They found that, for example, marathon runners have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation. But the vast majority of atrial fibrillation occurs later in life. After 65, about one in five people develops atrial fibrillation over 10 years.’ Mozaffarian and his colleagues studied the habits of 5,446 adults, average age 73, comparing their physical activities with the risk of developing atrial fibrillation. ‘No one has looked at exercise and atrial fibrillation in these older people,’ he said. ‘We found that light to moderate exercise, such as walking 10 blocks a week, was associated with a lower incidence of atrial fibrillation.’”

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