Athletes Face Twice the Odds for A-Fib

By Robert Preidt
Health Day reporter

TUESDAY, July 13, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Athletes have a much higher risk of atrial fibrillation with a heart rhythm disorder than non-athletes, and younger athletes have a higher risk than older athletes, according to a new British report.

Atrial fibrillation (a-fib) is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can interfere with blood flow. A-fib can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart problems.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 13 studies published between 1990 and December 2020. There were more than 70,000 participants, including more than 6,800 athletes and more than 63,000 non-athletes.

Overall, athletes had about 2.5 times the risk of a-fib than non-athletes. But when the researchers focused on participants without risk factors for heart disease (such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure), they found that athletes had almost four times the risk of a- fib compared to non-athletes.

The results were published on July 12 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

“Athletes have a significantly higher likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation compared to non-athletic controls,” reported Jamie O’Driscoll, of the School of Psychology and Life Sciences at Canterbury Christ Church University in England. , and his colleagues.

“Younger athletes have a higher relative risk of atrial fibrillation than older athletes; however, exercise dose parameters, including training and competition history, as well as potential gender differences for atrial fibrillation risk require future research, ”the authors concluded in a press release. .

The analysis also showed that athletes under 55 had an about four times higher risk of a-fib than those 55 and over. These older athletes were 76% more likely to have the disease than non-athletes.

Athletes involved in sports like football (soccer), rugby, or netball, which is similar to basketball, had a higher risk of a-fib than those in endurance sports like Nordic skiing, orienteering (the sport of boating, often played in terrain) or rowing, according to the report.

Previous research has shown that physical activity can improve heart health and is associated with a lower risk of illness and death. But studies have also suggested that there is a point at which increasing levels of exercise are associated with heart problems, including a-fib.

More information

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in the United States has more on a-fib.

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, press release, July 12, 2021

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