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Exercise Lowers Atrial Fibrillation Risk

Light to moderate activity such as walking is sufficient to produce benefits

TUESDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Older adults who engage in light to moderate physical activity are at lower risk of atrial fibrillation than their counterparts who do not exercise, according to research published online Aug. 4 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted a study of 5,446 adults aged 65 years and older who were monitored for atrial fibrillation and who provided information on their leisure-time and exercise habits.

There were 1,061 new cases of atrial fibrillation during 47,280 person-years of follow-up, the researchers found. Those who engaged in the most leisure-time activity were the least likely to have atrial fibrillation as were those who walked the furthest or at the fastest pace. Moderate exercise was associated with lower risk of atrial fibrillation but high-intensity exercise was not, the report indicates.

"Our findings suggest that moderate physical activity may meaningfully reduce this risk and that up to one-fourth of new cases of atrial fibrillation in older adults may be attributable to absence of moderate leisure-time activity and regular walking at a moderate distance and pace," the authors write. "These results suggest that these easily achievable lifestyle habits should be further evaluated as potential preventive measures to reduce the incidence of atrial fibrillation in the particularly high-risk and growing population of older adults."

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